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THE IMPASSABLE CHASM (Page 91).
Silver Caves, Frontispiece.
E SILVER CAVES
A MINING STORY
DODD, MEAD & COMPANY
By DODD, MEAD & COMPANY.
I. THE "LAST CHANCE," .
II. THE FURNISHING OF A NEW HOME, .
III. A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION, .
IV. MAX HAS AN IDEA, . . . .
V. OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER,
VI. PROGRESS IN MINING,
VII. A DIME NOVEL HERO,
VIII. HOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR, .
IX. SANDY MCKINNOn's EAVESDROPPING,
X. FACING THE NEW SITUATION, .
XI. PREPARATIONS FOR WAR,
XII. THE ENEMY APPEARS,
XIII. A FLAG OF TRUCE,
XIV. SOME DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE, . 15I
XV. OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING, . . 167
XVI. THE FIGHT AT THE FORD, . . . 177
XVII. THE CAPITALIST EXAMINES THE MINE, I93
XVIII. SUCCESS ACHIEVED, 209
THE "LAST CHANCE."
THE SILVER CAVES.
THE LAST CHANCE."
Matters had come to a crisis with Len and
Max, when Sandy McKinnon arrived at the
camp, with a letter of introduction from a
friend in Denver.
These two young men had not been at all
fortunate, so far, and, like the rest of the
community, were sorely discouraged. They
had wavered for some days between desert-
ing the place and another alternative, the
nature of which they kept to themselves, for
they knew that they might not only be
laughed at, but perhaps prevented from carry-
ing out their plan, were it announced.
The camp I refer to is now a flourishing
THE LAST CHANCE.
town, the center of many small side-villages
on the northern slope of Sierra San Juan ;
but twenty-five years ago, when my story
occurred, it was at the point of collapse, and
perhaps would never have recovered had not
what I am about to relate occurred; and you
must bear with me while I explain the cir-
cumstances that led up to its revival.
The beginnings of the town had been made
half a dozen miles higher up Panther Creek,
almost at its source, in fact ; but after digging
numberless prospect-holes and driving three
fairly long tunnels, everybody voted that
locality a failure, and came down to the pres-
ent town-site where paying mines had since
been worked for two or three years.
The two young men had become the own-
ers, some time before, of one of these early
tunnels (that one nearest the source of the
Creek), through taking it as payment of a
joint debt because nothing better was to be
had. It was called the Last Cha7ice, and the
boys accepted the name as significant, and
THE LAST CHANCE,
proposed to risk what means they had left in
giving the mine a new trial.
About 200 feet down stream was a second
tunnel, the Aurora, owned by two men who
were friendly to our heroes, one of whom,
named Bowen, was famous for his reckless
yet good-natured exploits of bravado.
Some distance still farther down the canon,
on the same side (the right-hand wall of the
narrow gulch, looking down stream), was the
third old tunnel, the Cardinal, This last was
the property of a thorough scallawag, de-
spised and avoided by all respectable citizens,
and only kept from being a positive criminal
by his natural cowardice. The enmity of
this man, whose real name was lost in the
nick-names Old Bob " and Squint-eye,"
had been incurred by the boys through
their exposing a fraud by which he had once
proposed to sell to a stranger named Ander-
son, as a productive mine, this very property
— the Last Chance — although he neither
owned it nor believed it worth anything.
THE LAST CHANCE.
It was not strange, therefore, that, while
trying to avoid general curiosity, they were
especially anxious to keep their intentions
secret from Old Bob.
And just at this juncture came Mr. Alex-
ander McKinnon, straight from Glasgow, and
hoping to do something at the camp which
might teach him how silver mining should
be carried on, and perhaps open a way to
make his fortune. Placing all the chances of
failure, and their poverty, fairly before him,
they offered to let him into their new
partnership, to be called Brehm, Bushwick &
Co., on very liberal terms, and he accepted.
So they fitted him out with the kind of
clothing, tools, and general outfit which were
needful, purchased enough provisions to last
a fortnight, after which they could come to
town for more, and to-morrow the three were
to start bright and early to their new home
and the Last Chance.
. When the rising sun of the next morning
had begun to tinge the snow-peaks with
THE LAST CHANCE.
rose-color, but hours before his beams could
scale the mountain wall of this deep valley
and flood it with warmth and light, our
hopeful adventurers were awake and busy
Sandy showed himself a much more skill-
ful cook than either of his American friends,
and was warmly applauded.
There's a difference between fend and
fare weell," he remarked, sententiously, when
they told him of some of their troubles in
this matter; by which I mean," he added,
as he saw their puzzled faces, that shifting
for a meal is bad policy beside knowing
how to have plenty of good food and
how to prepare it. It's poor economy, I'm
thinkin', to half-starve one's self. * Lang
fasting hains ' — that's saves, ye ken — ' nae
McKinnon dropped more and more into
broad Scotch as he became better acquainted,
and his fund of old saws, into each of which
whole chapters of worldly experience had
THE LAST CHANCE.
been boiled down, were a constant source
of enjoyment to his partners.
Breakfast out of the way in a hurry, the
three burros (Mexican donkeys) hired to
carry their luggage were brought around,
the little sawbuck saddles placed upon their
backs, and cinched to them with a tightness
that made them groan and grunt lustily ;
then the load of each was placed between
the forks, or hung to the four horns of the
saddle, surmounted by the long-handled
tools, and securely lashed on by ropes and
thonofs of twisted rawhide, which never
break or stretch, and rarely get loose from
The whole bao^craore made about six fair
burro-loads, and these were to be carried in
two trips. It was not necessary for them to
burden themselves with a great amount of
furniture or provisions, since the former could
be left locked up in town, and the provisions
could be replenished when they ran short.
Besides, the lads expected to catch an
THE LAST CHANCE,
abundance of trout and perhaps shoot an
occasional deer or mountain sheep, an ex-
pectation in which they would not have
been disappointed had the extraordinary
affair which happened later left time for
hunting and fishing.
The trail was a steep and little-used path-
way up the mountain, through dense woods,
where it straggled about to avoid rocks and
fallen logs. It was built up, shelf-fashion,
around projecting knobs, crossed fierce tor-
rents upon narrow bridges, and was full of
sharp turns, miry holes, and bad going of
every description. Here and there an open-
ing in the forest gave a magnificent view, far
out over the foot-hills, for the elevation,
toward the head of the creek, was more than
four thousand feet above the valleys and
fully ten thousand feet above the sea.
Beyond the woods the party found itself
on the brink of a deep gorge, at the bottom
of which Panther Creek tore down in a
series of cascades. The torrent ran four or
THE LAST CHANCE.
five hundred feet below, and above them the
mountains rose to invisible heights. Along
this cliff-face the narrow trail had been
carried irregularly and often very danger-
ously, but the hardy little beasts picked their
way cautiously up and down, and never sank
too deep in a bog or got too far over the
edge of a precipice.
Finally the trail reached the edge of the
creek, near its head, and here was a ford,
beyond which it led through the willows and
over the Aurora's dump to the Last Chance,
whose cabin, perched on a bench, or terrace,
was gained by a stiff climb up a zigzag in
the face of the rocky bluff.
The burros were turned loose in a small
meadow above the cabin, and after a hearty
supper the tired boys quickly made beds of
boughs and blankets, and slept as their long
tramp entitled them to do.
FURNISHING A NEW HOME.
THE FURNISHING OF A NEW HOME.
It was understood, without discussion, that
Max should take the superintendence of all
mining operations, that Len should be the
buyer and business man of the firm generally,
and that Sandy should look after the house-
keeping. Of course, they would all work
together, but these were the specialties of
" Now who is to go back after the rest of
our possessions," demanded Lennox, as they
gathered at breakfast on the morning follow-
ing their arrival. " I don't reckon there's any
use of two going."
"No— I'd as lief do it," Max remarked.
" I can re-cinch and manage the jacks rather
better than the rest of you, I imagine."
"You certainly have my permission," re-
marked Lennox, with a smile.
FURNISHING A NEW HOME.
''An' I'm no hinderin' ye, as the brig said
to the burn," Sandy echoed. The young
man frae Virginia can stay an' help me get
the hoose in trim."
So the donkeys were brought up and
saddled, Max marched away, and the other
lads turned to their house-cleaning.
The former owners of the property had
built a pretty good log cabin at the
head of the dump, close to the mouth of the
tunnel, the door and front window of which
faced down the gulch and straight at the
Aurora's dump. There was a rude fireplace
in which had been left a dilapidated cooking
stove. The first task was the straightening
up of this, and putting it into condition for
use, which Len soon accomplished.
At the farther end of the cabin a series of
bunks had been built out of poles. These
were now broken and unwholesome, so they
were pulled to pieces, the loose bark and
other dirt cleared away from the logs and
floor behind them, and new ones were put up,
FURNISHING A NEW HOME. 15
a layer of slender, elastic poles making an
excellent bed-bottom in each bunk, and spruce
boughs luxurious mattresses upon which to
spread the buffalo robes and blankets.
This and some other tidying had taken all
day, but when Max came in about sundown,
the kettle was singing and dancing on the
old stove, that leaked fire-light, if not fire,
from a dozen cracks, and all three were well
satisfied with themselves and their snug
home ; while the boy, who came with Max to
drive the donkeys back, was loud in his
praises, and went away convinced that no
body on the Creek could make flapjacks equal
to Sandy McKinnon.
That evening, as they sat in the doorway,
wedging handles into the picks and preparing
the little mine lamps. Max suddenly exclaimed:
" Oh, I forgot to tell you ! While I was
packing the last burro. Squint-eyed Bob
came moseying around and wanted to know
what I was up to and where I was going, and
so on — evidently prying 'round for informa-
1 6 FURNISHING A NEW HOME.
tion. I gave him short answers, but he
wasn't satisfied, and finally boned me out-
right to know if we weren't going up to Jim
Bowen's mine on Panther Creek. That
roused my dander. ' Hang it, Bob,' I retorted,
* what business is it of yours, where I'm
going, or what I am doing? May be I'm
going up Panther Creek and may be I'm not
— I don't see what odds it makes to you ! '
He saw I was mad and backed off, but he
blurted out one thing before he left, that I
don't quite savvy."
" What was that ? "
** I can't give his words exactly, but it was
to the effect that * in this country, when a
man jumped another man's claim he was dog-
on likely to hear from it pretty soon, and
that what was left of him wasn't worth any
funeral expenses.' Then he yelled something
about * fixing me,' and went off. Now what
can he do ? "
" Oh, nothing at all," said Len. " Its all
bluster. He was trying to bluff you."
FURNISHING A NEW HOME.
That may be, but he means to make
mischief if he can, and we must look out
for him. However, I fancy we're safe till
morning, and I'm going to sleep. Good-
As for Jim Bowen," Len answered, " he
told me himself, when he was here last, that
if I ever wanted to do anything in or about
the Aurora, I was welcome to do what I
could, for he never should try to develop it "
A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION.
A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION.
It was with eager interest that the young
partners shouldered their picks, lighted their
lamps, and prepared to begin work on the
second day after their arrival. And yet it
was with noiittle trepidation — at any rate in
the minds of the two leaders in the enter-
prise ; for Max and Len well knew that they
were relying wholly upon a theory, and were
going against not only the experience of the
early prospectors and miners here, but against
the judgment of the whole population of the
district, among which were many miners of
practical knowledge. As for Sandy — a stran-
ger to these facts — he was simply full of the
buoyancy which hope and novelty lends to
every new movement in the line of one's am-
22 A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION.
" If there is anything more inspiriting than
mining for the precious metals, the world has
not yet found it. It is the secret charm of
how many a fairy tale! By it how many a
fable can be practically interpreted ! Just be-
fore you, perhaps right under the first clod, or
hidden in the dark recesses of this very crev-
ice out of which springs the service-bush
whose sugary berries you are pausing to
taste, lies waiting the all-powerful gold.
But just here halt with me a moment, while
I sketch the position and outward appearance
of this mine. The entrance of the tunnel had
been made in a pretty nearly vertical face of
rock, at the edge of the little bench or terrace
upon which the cabin stood, and the rock
which had been excavated had been brought
out by cars running upon a rude wooden
tramway, and pitched down into the valley,
forming an elongated heap of stone, like the
beginning of a railway embankment. This
was called the dump." The track still re-
mained along the level top of the dump, and
A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 23
one of the small cars, somewhat out of repair,
lay overturned beside it, its load, apparently
the last brought out of the mine, still half
filling its box.
How deep and large the tunnel or drift
might be, the boys could judge only by the
size of the dump, for a heavy door prevented
entrance. From under the door trickled a
stream of clear cold water, which had already
proved a great convenience. The Aurora
mine, a hundred yards below, was almost pre-
cisely similar in outward appearance — even
to the rivulet, but it had no door.
Breakfast dispatched and overalls donned,
their picks sharpened, their lamps trimmed
and burning," the firm marched up to the por-
tal in single file. Max at the head.
" Open, sesame ! " shouted the leader.
''Allee samee open," echoed Len, in the
best Chinese he knew.
" Kai duxon parasitidos gignotai," muttered
McKinnon in broad Gaelic Greek.
But his talisman was no more effective
24 A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION.
than that of the others, and the dopr stood
Max struck an attitude resembling Thor
with his hammer, and made ready to deal the
barricade a splintering blow.
He that would eat the kernel maun crack
the nut," pronounced Sandy, in as solemn a
tone of voice as though he were giving a
Hold on ! " exclaimed Len, seizing his
partner s uplifted arm. Don't smash it. I
reckon we can get in more peaceably. Let's
try to pry off the lock."
Very well," assented Max ; " here goes ! "
Inserting his pick-point carefully into the
staple clasping the padlock, by which the
door seemed to be secured, two or three forci-
ble wrenches pulled it out, and the released
latch fell easily out of place.
It only remained to swing open the door
and face the burst of icily damp air that
rushed out, as though delighted to be set free
and allowed to mingle with the sunshine.
FORCING THE BARRICADE.
Silver Caves, Page 24.
A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION.
You will remember that a steady stream of
water was described as pouring out from be-
neath this door, and coursing down the side
of the dump in a channel which showed it had
long been followed. The water was cold and
pure, and had proved a great convenience to
the boys in the cabin, who otherwise must
have made a tedious descent to the creek-bed
for all they wanted to use.
Upon opening the door it was seen that this
stream spread itself over nearly the whole
width of the tunnel, which was badly made
and far from orderly.
The trio were not afraid of mud and water,
however, so they pushed their way in, stumbl-
ing along over fallen fragments, and in and
out of the puddles, feeling that it would take
a longer time to clear the path of these obsta-
cles than they could well afford. They had
not gone more than thirty or forty paces,
however, when the tunnel became choked
with prostrate and moldy timbers and great
heaps of fallen rock, which they could with
26 A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION.
difficulty crawl over. No sooner had this
first obstruction been passed than a second
similar one was encountered, and they began
to feel that it was perilous work to proceed
under a tunnel roof so insecure as this one
appeared to be.
I wonder how much deeper this thing is,"
said Max, after a third great barricade had
been surmounted. " What did our dear old
friend, the late lamented proprietor, tell you
under that head, Lennox?"
Said it was i8o feet long."
But he didn't mention that it was only six
inches wide ! " Max retorted, coming to a
halt at the same time.
*'We may as well go on a bit farther,"
Sandy advised. "A Scotchman doesna like
to gie it up till he ha' seen the end of a
thing. 'A'maist and very near,' I've heard,
* hae aye been great liars.' "
All right, we'll explore it as long as we
can scramble," Max rejoined cheerfully, and
the three pushed on, enduring many a bump
A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 27
and scratch on hands and toes, knees and
elbows, in spite of their lamp light.
Before long, however, progress was com-
pletely blocked. A great mass of the roof
had fallen where a crevice opened upward
and sideways, and out of this crevice gushed
a steady stream of water to swell that which ^
trickled from lesser fountains elsewhere, and
drained out along the bottom of the tunnel.
" Thus far and no farther. Satisfied,
" Oo, aye. ' Down wi' the lid,' quo' Willie
They were turning back when Max asked
them to wait a minute, and taking out a
pocket-compass, he noted as well as he w^as
able the direction the excavation pointed at
that inner end.
I suspect," he explained, that as it
deepens this tunnel bends a trifle to the
left — down the creek — on a slight curve fol-
lowing the vein. If so I want to know it."
Making their way out, he took another
28 A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION.
compass observation near the entrance and
found he was right, though the bend was a
Before leaving the inner end, the two
Americans had selected several specimens of
the vein-rock from the sides and roof of the
tunnel, and other pieces were gathered as
they returned. When daylight was reached
they spread these specimens out and talked
them over, explaining to Sandy, who turned
out rather wiser in respect to minerals than
he had claimed to be, what Avere the promi-
nent characteristics of each kind of rock re-
A few of the fragments, showing some
peculiar brown nodules and threads, they
separated from the rest, and compared them
with similar pieces taken from the over-
turned car-load on the dump, which had ex-
cited their attention before. None of the
rock at the entrance had shown this charac-
teristic ; all pieces of that kind, they dis-
covered, had come from the innermost depth.
A DISCOURAGING EXPLORATION. 29
If we could get past that barrier I think
we should find much more of it," Max re-
" We know well enough as to that," Len
replied, for certainly that car-load was about
the last one brought from the mine, and must
show what the breast is made of."
"What do you mean by the breast?"
The rock across the end of the tunnel
into which the digging is carried forward."
''Well," Max resumed, '' the gangue there,
judging by the car-load of specimens, contains
more of this brown stuff than anything we
saw as far as we went, so I think it is fair
to conclude that it increases steadily in that
direction, and that if the tunnel were pushed
farther the whole vein would be seen, before
very long, to be well impregnated with it,
taking the place of this useless copper and
" Can we not examine the outcrop ?" Sandy
asked, ''and learn something from that?"
30 A DISCOURAGING EXPIORATION,
The outcrop of a vein is that part of it
which appears above the surface of the soil,
or enclosing rocks, — crops out, as geologists
I don't know ; perhaps so. It would do
no harm to and take a look at it."
MAX HAS AN IDEA.
MAX HAS AN IDEA.
Nobody, of course, would ever deliberately
have purchased a piece of mining- property
about which he knew so little as these lads
did about the Last Chance claim. But it
must be remembered, that they did not buy
after selection, but that the mine was forced
quickly upon them, taken, like Hobson's
choice of a horse in the stable which held but
one animal, because there was no other pay
to be got. Now it was their business to ex-
plore the property thoroughly and see what
could be made out of it. They knew that
many a mine had been abandoned by one
owner and yielded a fortune to his successor ;
it was possible some good might have been
overlooked in this one. No man," wrote
the wise philosopher, Francis Bacon, ''pros-
pers so suddenly as by other's errors."
MAX HAS AN IDEA.
At any rate, they proposed to find out all
they could about the prospect-hole, and not
run away without at least loudly knocking at
fortune's door. A man can endure failure
with much composure when he feels that it
has been through no lack of diligence on his
part, and if success follows, it is all the more
satisfactory for having been earned by good
judgment and hard work.
Putting into their pockets some pieces oi
cold bread and a handful apiece of dried fruit,
for they did not know how far their search
might lead them, they began to climb the
steep rocks which formed the wall of the
valley, and after a few moments worked their
way up to where a less steeply inclined slope
stretched onward to the summit of the range.
Here, after some difficulty, they were able to
discover the crest or outcrop of their vein,
and to trace it two or three hundred yards by
its occasional appearance at ledges and bare
spots among the herbage and heather of short,
thick, huckleberry-like bushes, which clothed
MAX HAS AN IDEA.
the mountain-side. At the farther border
of this plateau, a huge land-slide, in some
long-past spring, had come thundering down
from the cliffs above, burying under it all
further trace of the vein, no outcropping of
which was visible in the rocks again exposed
a quarter of a mile beyond, so far as they
could make out after a wearisome tramp of
It was evident that they had not been the
first to go over this ground, for nigh under the
foot of the land-slide, which was now a bank
of richest flowers, some nodding on tall stems
in the splendor of purple, scarlet and gold,
others equally gaudy but more lowly, bearing
blossoms modestly beautiful in white and
brown, they found a pit ten or twelve feet
deep, sunken into the rock.
The stone which had been thrown out of
this pit was examined with great care, and
Max even scrambled down to its bottom and
flaked off more specimens, which he tossed up
with exclamations of rejoicing. They cer-
MAX HAS A AT IDEA.
tainly showed a far larger proportion of the
brown mineral, in which our prospectors
were taking so much interest, than anything
that had yet been seen, and strengthened the
notion that it increased in plenty the farther
the vein w^as followed.
Now let us see if we were right about
the bending, " Max remarked, when he had
climbed out of the prospect-hole.
''All right," Len answered, his tongue ham-
pered by bunches of the acrid purple berries
of the Oregon grape, which not only filled
his mouth, but puckered his lips. '' Can you
trace the outcrop all the way?"
No, but I'm going to climb up on this
slide a little ways, and then have you go back
and stand at the edge of the cliff, while
Sandy stands midway between us. I can see
then whether the vein curves. "
" Why, of course it does, " called out the
Scotchman, who had quietly mounted the
broken face of the land-slide, until he could
overlook the ground. ''The vein just fol-
MAX HAS AN IDEA.
lows along the base o' this low ridge here,
and I can see that it curves quite de-
You can scarcely glint it, I dare say,
where you stan', but come up here, and you
will see it plainly. It's lang and narrow."
The others mounted to his side, and then
could easily discern that a narrow ridge,
like the ruins of a big wall which had been
made of white rock but now was fallen and
overgrown with weeds and briers, stretched
in a gentle curve from the brink of the gulch
to the foot of the land-slide, where it seemed
a trifle narrower than at the cliff.
"And look there," said Max, pointing
with his finger straight across the gulch to
the gray wall of the opposite mountain,
which seemed to rise almost plumb from the
bed of Panther Creek. Look ! Do you
see that whitish upright patch, with the
darker streaks on each side of it, extending
up and down the face of the cliff?"
MAX HAS AN IDEA.
" Ay," they assented together, Lennox add-
ing, " It's like a Kensington panel."
Plainly that panel is the continuation of
this ridge and the vein, which have been cut
through by the creek.
"But there's another vein on the other side
Yes, that must be the extension of the
Aurora lead. And if I am not mistaken this
ridge is a wedge of porphyry, what geologists
call a dyke, thrust up between these two
veins. Probably it narrows in or pinches, as
they say, just here, and further on would
thicken again. "
** Do you mean that it split what was
originally one vein, " Len asked, " and pried
the halves apart ? "
" No, I should say not, for, as you know,
the rock in the Last Chance is different
from that in the Aurora. Probably the dyke
was formed first, and the lodes came after-
ward by forcing themselves between it and
the trachyte-body of the mountain. "
MAX HAS AN IDEA.
"That's a' vera interesting," was Sandy's
dry remark, "but, in my eegnorance, permeet
me to ask how it affects our eenterests
practically? A blind man's nae judge o'
colors, ye ken. "
" I am not sure that it affects our interests
at all, and yet I have an idea it may. "
"Trot out your little idea!" exclaimed
Len, with characteristic impatience ; and with
equally characteristic caution Max declined to
do so until he had thought more about it.
Whereupon, with good-natured compliance,
his questioners departed and busied them-
selves in hunting for more of the tart berries
of the Oregon grape, which grew purple
among the lichen-printed stones.
Returning half an hour later they found
Max pacing slowly down the crest of the
ridge like a sentinel on a rampart.
" I want you fellows to help me get the
breadth or thickness of this dyke here as
nearly as we can come at it."
"How?" asked Len.
MAX HAS A IV IDEA.
" Oh, by pacing over the ridge and estima-
ting it carefully."
They decided after a close examination
that it was about one hundred feet in thick-
ness at that point, or, at any rate, consider-
ably less than the distance between the Last
Chance and Aurora lodes, at the mouths of
their respective tunnels.
Then they strolled back to their cabin,
where Sandy busied himself in mixing raised
bread for the evening meal, while Max stuck
a lamp in his cap and disappeared within the
When, that evening, the trio were ready to
sit down together again around a cheerful
fire outside the house. Max threw off his
reserve and began to talk.
" I suppose you fellows think I've been a
running things in a high-handed sort of a way
this afternoon, but I had to do a bit of study-
ing over my idea before I could get it into
such a shape that I could explain it to you,
and get your help intelligently. See?"
SITUATION OF THE TWO MINES.
Silver Caves, Page 41.
MAX HAS AN IDEA.
" Ay," Sandy answered for both. " Ilka
bird must hatch its ain egg."
" Well, this is the egg I have been incuba-
ting. I am convinced that there is nothing
to be got out of the Aurora ; it's just a dead
quartz-lode all through. But our mine will
show more and more of the stuff we want the
deeper we go, or else I am greatly mis-
But it will take all the fall to clean that
tunnel out and timber it up so as to be safe!"
" Exactly ! Now the Aurora is open and
has a firm roof. She runs right alongside of
ours, with only that dyke between them like a
stone partition, and goes about one hundred
feet further into the hillside. My notion is to
go to the end of the Aurora, cut through the
dyke into the Last Chance lode, and so get
quickly at new rock, beyond any reached by
our old drift, wdiere I believe the mineral will
be found richer, since all that we can learn
goes to show that the lode improves steadily
MAX HAS AN IDEA.
in the quantity of that brown stuff which it
carries. What do you think of it ?"
It sounds very reasonable indeed," Len
agreed instantly, and went on to elaborate
the plan with his customary enthusiasm, but
the more cautious nature of McKinnon
asserted itself in questions.
D' ye ken whether the dyke-rock is haird
or saft?" he inquired, among other things.
** Not certainly," Max answered. It's easy
enough to work at the surface, but it may
be much tougher down below. It appears to
be coarse porphyry all through, however,
and that usually does not make very hard
''Should we have to blast?"
I suppose so, now and then,"
" Do you know how ? "
" Oh yes, that is not a difficult matten
when one has cartridges of giant powder."
" How long do you suppose it will take
to dig through the partition ?"
" Can't say. If v/e work hard and have
MAX HAS AN IDEA.
good luck, I should think we ought to
cross-cut the dyke in from two to three
These objections, and all the obstacles
likely to be encountered, as well as the
probable success of the venture, having been
thoroughly discussed and a favorable de-
cision reached, no time was lost, next day, in
beginning upon their plan of opening at the
farthest end a cross-cut through the porphyry
dyke separating the Aurora from their own
The whole of the first day's toil, however,
was expended in setting the broken car (of
wdiich I have already spoken) in good shape
upon its wheels ; in dragging it over to the
other mine, a work of no little difficulty, and
in clearing the floor of the tunnel of fallen
fragments, so that the car could be pushed
along the rails without impediment.
On the second day, however, digging could
be done in earnest. As only two could work
to advantage at once, and as they did not
MAX HAS AN IDEA.
care to labor for ten or twelve hours at a
stretch, they arranged a series of watches by
which each one had about two hours in the
tunnel and then two hours outside, when he
could be attending to the house, preparing
meals, or, as presently became necessary, stand
guard over the defenses.
The rock of the dyke proved to be a pink-
ish quartzose porphyry, containing crystals
of felspar, garnets, — many of which were very
perfect, and these were carefully saved by the
miners, — hornblende and several other min-
erals. Though in many places so tough that
they were obliged to drill holes and blast it,
much of the time the rock could be knocked
down with the pick, and at one point proved to
be so soft and spongy that it fairly crumbled
under their blows, and they made as much
progress in one morning as had before cost
two whole days of labor.
As fast as the rock was tumbled down
from the breast it was shoveled into a wheel-
barrow and taken to the mouth of the cross-
MAX HAS AN- IDEA.
cut, where it was reloaded into the little car
which ran on rails in the old Aurora. As
soon as this had been filled, it was pushed
out to the mouth of the tunnel and its cargo
thrown down the side of the mountain, over
the front of the great dump of waste rock
already built out from the mouth of the cave.
Thus two weeks of hard and systematic
work with shovel, pick and barrow, carried
them through the dyke, and on the morning
of the fifteenth day their tools struck into
the darker and wholly different vein-rock of
their own lode, a hundred feet or so beyond
the breast, or interior end, of the Last Chance
OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER.
OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER.
One day when our miners were nearing the
end of their cross-cut, Old Bob was sitting
in his cabin down in the outskirts of the vil-
lage, trying with his squinting eyes and
stiff fingers to mend a pair of brown duck
trousers, which were past any further wear-
ing without repairs.
He was worrying and muttering over this
miserable task, when he heard hurried
footsteps approach and stop at the door. A
moment later it was pushed open and a man
entered whom he did not recognize,
I 'spose likely you don't know me," the
stranger said. I'm Scotty."
" Scotty, eh ? Well, stranger, I don't
know ye much better by that, but take a
50 OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER.
cheer. Did ye come over the range ? and
did ye have any business with' me?"
The stranger sat down, took from his
pocket a flat-bottle, unscrewed the top and
offered it to his host.
Bob received it, remarked civilly, " Well,
here's how," and poured a deep draught of
its contents down his throat. Then wiping
his lips with the back of his hand he passed
the bottle back, with the comment :
" You air a gentleman, sir, or you wouldn't
be passin' round whisky 's good as that."
" Well, I try to treat a square man right
when I meet him. Do you remember a
little scrimmage in the El Dorado a few days
ago with a feller in your camp here, named
Morris ? I gues3 you wa'n't there."
"No," Bob replied, " I had other business
that night. But I heerd about it, and came
darned near being hung afterward by a
little mistake o' the boys, who thought I
was hiding the feller they bounced out of
town so suddent."
OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER.
Didn't you hear his name ?"
" No — nobody knowed him, and I never
set eyes on the coon."
" I'm the man."
"You?" yelled Bob — surprised fairly out
of his wits.
''Yes, that's me, and I reckon its all
''Well, Scotty," Bob replied. "I've drunk
v^ith you, and when I drink with a man he's
my friend ; but ef I hadn't you'd have to
get right out o' this, 'cause I aint got use
for fellers like you."
" Now, Mr. — ? " The visitor hesitated,
in a questioning way, evidently wishing the
name to be supplied.
" No matter about the mister, call me
Bob as the rest of the boys do. I hain't
mistered you yet."
"Now, Bob," Scotty began again, "you
may be prejudiced. That aint fair as
between friends. You ought to hear both
sides. I'm not so bad a man as they make
OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER.
out in this 'ere camp. Fact is, we were all
pretty high-strung that night, and a little
rumpus oughtn't to be laid up agin a gen-
tleman who tries to deal square and make
an honest livin'. I don't lay up nothin'
agin Morris. We just pulled pistols on one
another as gentlemen will sometimes, ye
know, and he got the drop. That's all.
Now a man like me shouldn't be sent out
o' town for a little thing like that. It's an
outrage, and you know it. Bob."
Yes," the upright Robert assented.
It's a big outrage. Mor'n that, I b'lieve
the boys would see it now, 'n' nobody'd
say a word if you were to go into the El
Dorado to-night. I'll risk it, 'n' I'll intro-
duce you as my friend, and then let any
one object if he thinks best ! "
" There's one young feller you can't catch
with no chaff like that, and if I get a good
chance, I'll break his head."
Who's that ? "
Don't know his name, a tall, red-bearded
OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER. 53
galoot, that looks like a Scotchman. Now
I'm part Scotch myself and I admire the
way he hit me under the ear, for my coun-
try's sake, but all the same I owe him
one ! "
**Why, that must be that new pardner of
Brehm and Bushwick's up the creek."
" Very likely. He'd just come up in the
stage and was askin' after a man o' that
Describing him to one another, they
agreed that Sandy was the object of Scotty's
special aversion. This knock-down incident
(into which it is unnecessary to go more par-
ticularly) was only one more count against
the firm, and a new bond uniting this
precious pair of scallawags. How and why
Bob hated Max and Lennox we know ; for
a still better reason the gambler fostered a
grudge against Sandy. They needed no
oath-taking, therefore, to make them firm
allies in any plan which might present itself
to get revenge and possible profit ; but in
OLD BOB TAKES A PARTNER.
respect to the latter point they had deceived
themselves into a belief that our young
friends had far more money than was really
PROGRESS IN MINING.
PROGRESS IN MINING.
Almost as soon as Max had dug through
the dyke, and penetrated the Last Chance
lode, he saw, to his great satisfaction, that he
had reasoned correctly, for the vein showed
even here a much larger proportion than
before of the brown streaks and nodules,
which, in their opinion, constituted its value.
Whether the rest of the gangue carried gold
or silver, could not be known, but that this
rusty material contained one or the other
they felt confident. The assurance that it in-
creased the deeper the vein was followed,
therefore gave them great encouragement
and raised their enthusiasm to the highest
The moment this vein was struck, however,
a new difficulty met them, for they found
that in this part it was full of crevices,
58 PROGRESS IN MINING.
through which water percolated from above.
At first this water was disregarded and
trickled out through the cross-cut, but as
they advanced in their digging it grew more
and more troublesome, and harmful to their
health. Max therefore proposed to cut a
drain down through the vein of the Last
Chance to the old tunnel entrance, and soon
convinced the others that it was necessary to
This was certainly a misfortune, and an un-
looked for one. It consumed valuable time,
cost money which they could ill spare, and
was in itself an intensely disagreeable job,
since the workmen would be compelled to
use the pick upon their hands and knees, or
lying down, and always with wet clothing,
since it would not pay to clear out the hole
to the size of a regular tunnel, but only to
make a passage-way through which the water
might escape from the interior of the mine ;
furthermore, the old tunnel, when it had been
reached, must be somewhat cleared, to allow
PROGRESS IN MINING. 59
of a proper passage of the water, in spite of
the fact that it was an unsafe and unpleasant
place to do work in.
Cheered by the thought of future success,
all went at this disagreeable task with great
alacrity, shortening the hours and avoiding
all needless labor. As small a tube was
made as it was possible to work in, but now
and then a hard surface would require severe
work, and these obstacles were dreaded, after
the first experience, for behind them, when
the shell was broken, would often be found a
little cavity more or less full of water, which
would gush out by the bucketful and once
or twice threatened to drown the young
miners like so many ground-squirrels in a
The distance they were obliged to go was
only about thirty yards, and as they worked
toward one another, from both ends, they
made their way through in about ten days.
It was a very irregular and unsafe hole, but it
drained the rock almost perfectly and served
6o PROGRESS IN MINING,
them afterward in another way quite as im-
As, by this new plan, a door was unneces-
sary on the Last Chance while it might pos-
sibly be wanted some day at the Aurora, it
was removed and set up frame and all at the
mouth of the other tunnel, which could now
be locked if necessary. This door proved a
benefit also, in helping them to regulate the
draft of air.
The only incident worth recording that
broke their daily loneliness and labor during
all the month which had now nearly gone by,
was the advent of a visitor, who appeared
one evening about the time they had com-
pleted the cross-cut.
He was a tramping miner who said he had
crossed the range from the South, and
begged to be allowed to spend the night at
their cabin. A man of decent appearance
would have been welcomed gladly, but this
applicant was an ill-featured, coarse-grained,
blasphemous fellow, whom they disliked at
PROGRESS IN MINING. 6i
once, and yet could not well turn away. It
was with great relief, therefore, that they saw
him take his thin frame down the trail next
morning. In addition to his disagreeable
manner he had been much more inquisitive
and prying than they liked, and had plainly
shown himself angry because they had not
made a full confidant of him.
Let us follow this visitor and find out more
of his habits and associates. It is scarcely
fair to condemn a man forever out of a single
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
When their unpleasant guest departed from
the cabin of our heroes, he marched straight
down to Bob's cabin in the village and there
found himself heartily welcomed. Old Bob
introduced him to Scotty as " Bill Stevens —
a fellow who knows the San Juan like his
own barn-yard." Scotty said he was glad to
see him, and no doubt he was, for he felt in
need of friends, and this new man, as a chum
of Bob's and evidently training in the same
band, would of course become an ally of his.
This Scotty needed ; though he had not been
sent out of town a second time, and was per-
mitted to lounge around the El Dorado and
to sit at the gambling-tables, or join the
story-telling circles at the public corral, he
saw that most of the men whom he met were
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
far from cordial toward him, and that his ear-
nest efforts to be agreeable were of small
avail in making friends. It did not suit his
plans to resent this, nor to leave the camp in
search of a more congenial community ; so he
put up with the unpopularity as well as he
could. It galled him, however, and caused
him to lay up hatred rather than love toward
the whole population of the valley.
As soon as Bill Stevens' back was turned,
Scotty took occasion to inquire somewhat
about him. Bob really knew little of his his-
tory, except that, as he said, they had been
pards " in a little game some time previous,
after which Stevens had thought it prudent
to go away. Scotty pressed Old Bob to
know the particulars of this partnership enter-
prise, but Bob declined at first to tell them.
Finally, however, he exclaimed :
" Well, I s'pose you might as well know, its
only another point against them dod-rotted
young swells up the creek. The fact is, when
Brehm and his partner lived down in that
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
there cabin 'cross the bridge yonder, Bush-
wick went off to Denver. By'n bye he came
back with a heap o' cash — don' know how
much — mebbe a thousand or so. 'Bout that
time Bill came over to see me from t'other
side the range, and I was telling about it, you
know. Well Bill, he made out 's how Bush-
wick didn't have no right to the money no
how, havin' stole it from somebody else by
some kind of lawyer's game, and 'twas as
much ours as his'n or anybody's, which of
course that is true, providin' he got it by
swindlin', which like enough he did, you
" So you and Bill held him up, did you ?
No, w^e didn't have no chance to rob him
on the road, but we thought we could get
into his cabin easy enough. So we tried it,
Stevens climbin' softly into the winder and I
outside a-holdin' the ladder. He'd got e'en-a
'most in, when bang went a gun and out
tumbled Bill on top o'me. I thought we was
both killed sure, but Bill picked himself up,
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
and we lit out as though the Old Scratch
himself was after us, which the same he
mighty near was."
''Didn't hit Stevens, then?" Scotty in-
quired, with a grin which showed how well he
enjoyed the comical side of the situation, and
how little his conscience was touched by the
villainy of the story.
" No, but it was an awful close call. Great
Csesar ! But Max Brehm kin shoot, now you
just bet ! "
Does Stevens know that the boys up the
creek where he stopped t'other night are the
same fellows ? "
" I guess not ; he aint said nothin* about
''If he did know, I reckon there'd be three
of us as thought we owed the fine gentlemen
a little debt of honor, which the same we
hadn't ought, on no account, to fail to pay —
Scotty's leer and chuckle were as long as
these slow and wicked words, and Bob's
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
squinty and bleary eye answered with a dis-
torted, left-handed, evil grin of comprehen-
sion as he snarled out the laconic assent :
Bet yer boots ! "
And yet this is the kind of men whom so
many well-meaning but romantically inclined
eastern boys, knowing the far West only as
they read of it in cheap books of a very poor
sort, regard as heroes in disguise, and long to
see and associate with. Thieves and cramblers
at home are justly abhorred by them, yet
the same man, perhaps, transplanted to the
Rockies to escape the sheriff at home, be-
comes in these flashy books a sort of chiv-
alrous knight whose uncouth ways only
heighten his supposed virtues.
This is the w^orst of nonsense. A brave,
heroic man does not show himself in this
garb. The honest heroes of the Rockies
never figure in dime novels and never will.
They are not loud and "chinny" enough for
that. They do not wear long hair, nor carry
a big Kentucky rifle, nor appear and disappear
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
in any mysterious Jack-in-the-box manner.
They are not accustomed to kill six or eight
"red-skinned varmints" at a single blow, and
if ever they are engaged in Indian warfare,
are far too wise to get so surrounded by a cir-
cle of Indians that they are obliged to take a
standing leap over the heads of their foes,
as did Eagle-eye or some other scout I once
read of. If they tried to behave in this way,
or to dress in story-book fashion, they would
be hung or driven out by men of action
who have no time to spend watching Bowery-
museum foolishness, and whose business
would be harmed by its display.
There is in every mining district a class of
men who behave more or less as these novels
portray, going as far toward it, anyhow, leav-
ing out some of the theatrical foolishness, as
they dare ; and I suppose they form the
material out of which the writers of the sorry
stuff try to make their heroes. But as a
matter of fact they are lawless scamps, brutal,
lowlived, ignorant, unclean men, with whom
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
not one in fifty of their admirers among the
readers of these false and miserable tales
would allow himself to be seen on the streets
of the town where he was born. They are
more noisy and more difficult to separate
from their betters in the rough and un-
arranged surroundings of a new mining camp
or cattle district, than they would be in an
eastern village where the affairs of life are
well classified ; but they are none the less
avoided and despised by good citizens, and
are feared rather than trusted in any emer-
gency, like an Indian war, which calls for
courage and discretion.
I cannot conceive of a more complete dis-
appointment and experience of fraud, than
would meet the romantic reader of the Indian-
slaying and horse-stealing tales in yellow
covers, who should go on a search through the
far West for the originals of those thrilling
Ruffianly men exist and attempt their
wicked schemes among honest men, who, in
72 A DIME NOVEL HERO.
the absence of regular police protection, and
at the great distance which many mines and
ranches lie from courts, are often obliged to
defend themselves as soldiers would in an
enemy's country, or as any man has a right
to do when attacked by robbers. But, boys,
for the sake of all that is fair and square, let
us call a ruffian a ruffian, and not attempt to
see glory in the doings of a horse-thief, or a
gambler, or a man who tries by force of rifle
and pistol to seize upon property which does
not belong to him.
While Scotty and Bob were discussing the
achievements by which Mr. William Stevens,
so called, had made himself distinguished,
that worthy came in, bringing a new bag of
cheap black tobacco. Filling their pipes, the
three scallawags sat down in front of the
coals smouldering in the adobe fireplace, and
Bob immediately began to tell Stevens the
names of the miners whose hospitality he
enjoyed the night before, and how eager he
ought to be to join the other two in a scheme
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
to break them down. Partly from ignorance,
partly by design, they exaggerated to each
other the injury each had suffered, and also
the amount of plunder which it was likely
might be obtained from the firm of B. B. &
Co. The upshot of it all, was a compact
between them to "get even" with the lads.
This meant to rob them and drive them from
the town, or, if it was at all necessary, to kill
them, accounting for their crime by some
artful story of self-defense or the like.
They were in no great hurry, however, to
carry out their wicked purposes, and three
or four days passed without their making any
movement, since no plan suggested itself that
One evening Old Bob came home and
remarked, as he took the coffee-mill between
his knees and began to fill it from a buck-
skin bag that hung against the chimney, that
Morris had returned from below, and that he
had talked with him a little.
" Did he say he loved ye ?" inquired Scotty,
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
in sarcastic tones, and betraying a little un-
easiness as to what might follow when Morris
should hear of his return in defiance of the
order of banishment.
''Wall — no, I reckon he's soured on me,"
was Bob's candid response. " But that
didn't phase me. I wanted mighty bad to
find out suthin', and I played sweet and boned
him for the information. "
'' Did he play sweet, too, and tell ye ?"
*'Wall — no. But all the same I found out
what I wanted. I let on I'd heard Jim
Bowen was dead, and asked him was it true."
What did he say ? "
" Oh, he glared at me, as though he was a
bull buffalo and I was a ky-yote, 'n' just says
* dead and buried,' and then he marched off
as if he'd been sent for. I'll get even with
that sardine yet ! "
This was a pretty accurate account of what
really had passed between them. In fact,
Morris had just been hunting with '* Buckeye
Jim" Bowen all that week, and knew he was
SCOTTY AND OLD BOB.
Silver Caves, Page 74.
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
as much alive as anybody had need to be ;
but Morris hated Bob, thought he had no
business to be playing the hypocrite and ask-
ing questions about what was none of his
affair, and so sent him off with this short and
reckless answer, not thinking or caring how
much Bob might believe of it.
So the Terror's passed in his checks, eh?"
was Scotty s comment. " He wasn't a bad sort
of a party. I used to know him in Illinoy.
They runrted him off because they said he
stole some horses, — fine nags they was, too.
But it turned out he wasn't the feller after
all. I could 'a' told 'em all the time they
was wrong, only it wouldn't a'-been quite
"Why?" asked Stevens, whose wits were
not of the quickest. Did you know the
right man ? "
I should smile ! / stole them horses,
pardner ! But, Bob, what made you so anx-
ious to know whether Buckeye Jim was dead ? "
Cause it fixes us O. K. The boys up
76 A DIME NOVEL HERO.
the creek are working his mine. I don't
know whether they've got any show of right
about it or not, but now Jim's dead I reckon
they'd have hard work to keep it if we war to
Do you know what it it is to jump a mine ?
It means simply to seize it without any right,
and hold it by force, a thing very often suc-
cessful when the first claimant has no legal
title to the property.
Bob's proposition interested the others at
once, and they began to discuss it eagerly.
Stevens asserted that it was the middle one
of the three mines at the head of the creek,
namely the Aurora, that the boys were work-
ing. He confessed that he had not gone into
it, but was sure that he was right. There was
too much water in the upper tunnel near the
cabin, he assured them, to do anything there.
Don't you 'spose Morris knows that these
boys have jumped Buckeye's mine?" asked
Scotty, who remembered that Bowen partly
owned the Aurora.
A DIME NOVEL HERO.
Tain't likely," Bob answered. " But it
will be just as well to keep him from findin'
out they're in there, if we can, for fear of
any interference. I reckon he feels friendly
toward 'em by reason of helpin' him in your
El Dorado scrape."
The very next morning, therefore, the three
conspirators were thrown into a quiver of
alarm, by seeing both Len and Max in town.
Bob met them at the post-office, and loitered
around, hoping, even if Morris should appear,
that he might be able by some good chance
to prevent their meeting. He thus heard Max
tell the postmaster that they meant to stay
in town until the next day, and took it for
granted, from something else which he over-
heard, that the Scotchman had come in also,
leaving the mine and cabin alone over-night.
The moment he heard this. Old Bob hast-
ened to find his partners and to say that now
was their opportunity to go up the creek, get
a look at the property, and make a plan for
capturing it. Scotty and Stevens agreed
78 A DIME NOVEL HERO.
that this was advisable, and borrowing horses,
the three rattled up the road to Panther
Creek as fast as possible, since no time ought
to be wasted if they were to get back before
sundown, and to travel on those mountain
trails in the darkness is by no means a com-
fortable or safe proceeding.
LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR.
HOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR.
Entirely unaware that Old Bob had re-
garded them with so much interest, or had
been so glad to overhear the fact that they
would spend the night in town, Len and Max
hastened to finish their errands, and then to
go about the principal business which had
brought them on the long walk to town. In
one important point their squint-eyed friend
had misunderstood them badly, — Sandy had
remained at the mine.
As soon as possible, therefore, the two
young men took their way briskly down the
familiar path which led to the home of an
old fellow who was known in the camp as
Mr. Professor." His queer, solitary habits
and sharp tongue had made him rather un-
popular, but everyone acknowledged his ex-
82 HOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR,
pertness in judging ores, and his opinion was
often sought by those who dared to face him.
" Are you sure you remember the shape of
the specimens?" Max asked, for the twen-
" As certain as anybody can be," Len
As they approached the professor s cabin,
they saw that worthy chopping at a log
beside it, whereupon they slackened their
eager pace and sauntered up to his door
with an air of unconcern.
Good morning, Professor," said Len
Mornin'," was the short reply, while the
chips flew right and left.
You must have learned how to chop in
some good school," Max observed, in a tone
" Raised in No'th Ca'lina," was the gruff
Is that so ? " Len exclaimed. Why,
that's not far from my home — I was raised
HOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 83
in Roanoke county, Virginia. Sorry I didn't
know that before. I should have liked to
come over and talked with you about things
down in that region. Don't see many men
out here that know much about the Piedmont
country. Were you ever up in Roanoke?"
Many a time."
Thus the ice was broken, and the lads won
their way through the crust which this stern
old miner was proud to wear, though it cut
him off more and more from the society of
those around him, who voted him an unso-
sociable old curmudgeon that somehow had
picked up a lot of information about rocks
Max did not smoke, but he had bought
the best cigar he could get in town, for the
special purpose of giving it to the old man,
and this gift, with Len's pleasant chat, quite
thawed the professor in the course of a
quarter of an hour or so. Len was very
diplomatic. He seemed to be in no hurry,
but finally steered the conversation around
84 I/O IV LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR.
to rare minerals. Then, as if by chance, he
recalled a package he had brought to the
professor from Denver, on his return from
that recent journey which Bob had alluded to
in his conversation with Scotty, and asked
the old man to show him the specimens again,
and to tell him more about them than he
had done on the evening when they were de-
Ordinarily a request like this would have
met with refusal ; but now the old man con-
sented at once, and led the way into his
Many rude little shelves were stuck up
against the log walls, upon which were
heaped dusty rows of minerals and various
other objects. One shelf contained several
cigar-boxes. These the professor took down
and opened one after another. Rummaging
through half a dozen he finally found the one
he wanted, and unfolded from their wrap-
pings the five small bits of rock which Len-
nox had brought to him from Denver.
HOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 85
Selecting three of the specimens the pro-
fessor took them to the light and began to
talk about what they represented.
" That's an ore of tellurium," he said, hold-
ing one of the pieces between his thumb and
finger, *'and it carries gold, — or may some-
times — a right smart percentage of it, too —
in the shape of a telluride. It is a very nice
smelting ore and a valuable one."
"Is there much of it in the Rockies?"
he was asked.
Mighty little's been found yet, worse luck.
It almost always occurs in veins with a lot of
lead and other stuff, and everywhere I have
ever seen it, it's alongside a porphyry dyke."
This last remark made Len's heart jump,
but he showed no excitement. In a well-
controlled voice he remarked that he wished
they had a magnifying glass so that the pro-
fessor might point out to them more effec-
tively the peculiarities of the mineral, which
he was turning over in his fingers.
I've a good one," the old miner answered.
86 IfOlV LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR.
" I'll get it," and he stepped back into the
Instantly Len drew from his pocket three
fragments of the brown rock taken from the
deepest part of the Last Chance lode, and
slipped the Denver specimens out of sight.
He thought the change would not be noticed ;
certainly there was no difference between
the former and latter specimens discernible
to a careless eye, and if they deceived this
expert, he might feel sure that his pieces
of ore were as truly tellurium as were the
The professor came out wiping the lenses of
a small but powerful magnifier upon the lining
of his old coat. Taking one of the changed
specimens unsuspectingly from Len's hand,
he began to scrutinize it very carefully under
" By George," he exclaimed, that's a bully
specimen ! I wonder where Pete," — his Den-
ver aquaintance, — "got it. I never saw any-
thing richer in tellurides."
no IV ZEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 87
Then he took the other pieces and ex-
amined those in the same way. Guess the
glass must 'a' been dusty when I looked at
'em before," he muttered, as he handed them
and the magnifier to Len that he might study
them ; and then he went on to say what
were the particles to be seen in the rusty
rock which denoted the presence of tellu-
ride of gold, and that certain other black
spots, filling small cavities, seemed to be
carbonate of lead, which might contain
" Well," he remarked, as the boys finished
their examination, If Pete's got a mine of
that stuff he ought to be a rich man pretty
soon. It'll assay mighty high, or I don't
know coals from chalk."
To re-exchange the specimens and give the
professor his own back again, was a matter
of no great difficulty while they talked, and
as both the lads were eager to get away by
themselves and sing a song over their tokens
88 HO W LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR.
of success, it was not long before they took
their leave, — the warmth of that proceeding
causing the old miner considerable astonish-
" Darned queer fellows, them," he said to
himself, as he watched them go down the
road very sedately for a little way, then sud-
denly fall to shaking one another by both
hands and slapping one another's backs.
" Bet you they've been a leetle too long
at the El Dorado," he suggested aloud to
himself, as there was no other auditor; and
Himself quite agreed with the speaker.
Now just look at that ! "
They danced and chorused \}ci^\x yah, yahs!
till they were out of breath, an ending not
long delayed in the thin air of the high
Rockies. And as the aged and weather-
beaten wanderer looked at them, he felt such
an attack of memory, and suffered such
twinges of boyish feeling, as had not pierced
his cynical old frame in many and many a
BOW LEN FOOLED THE PROFESSOR. 89
" They're way-iip boys ! " he exclaimed to
himself. I hope they'll get the drop on
that cantankerous old female they call For-
tune, — and I reckon they will ! "
SANDY McKINNON'S EAVES-
SANDY MCKINNOn's EAVESDROPPING.
Taking the absence of Max and Len as a
holiday, Sandy locked the tunnel entrance,
pulled the house-door shut (it never had a
lock), and started off on a long tramp up the
mountain, within an hour after his partners
left the cabin. He carried his rifle, intent
upon both game and glory, for apart from the
desire for fresh venison in the larder, he
thought it would be a fine thing to go back
some day to Scotland and tell how, single-
handed, he had met and killed a grizzly bear
on some snowy pinnacle of the wild Sierra
He walked far and reached a great eleva-
tion. He looked abroad upon magnificent
pictures, shot an elk and some smaller ani-
mals, and had a variety of interesting expe-
riences, though he got no nearer a grizzly
SAND TS EA VESDROPPING.
than to catch sight of one on the further side
of an impassable chasm. But these adven-
tures do not come into our story, which was
resumed in his surprising experiences that
Turning homeward, when warned to do so
by the decHning sun, he was caught in a
thunder-shower, which, at the great altitude
where it encountered him, meant a deluge of
sleet, hail, and most uncomfortably cold rain.
Drenched, sore and shivering, Sandy made
his way as rapidly as he was able down
toward the crest of the cliff under which the
cabin was sheltered. In the foggy condition
of the air, — to those in the valley this fog
was a rain-cloud, — and in his weary and half-
dazed state, he passed beyond the point
where the faint trail led down the precipice ;
but early discovering his error, turned back,
creeping slowly along the brink of the ledge
in search of it.
He had scarcely begun the search, how-
ever, when he was startled by the sound of
SAND TS EA VESDROPPING.
human voices. The first thought was that
his partners had come back. The next
instant, however, he perceived that the voices
were strange to him, and with cautious
curiosity he crept stealthily to the bushy
brink and peered over the low cliff.
He found himself squarely above the
entrance to the Aurora, which was hardly
fifty feet beneath him. Three rough men
were standing on the dump in front of the
tunnel, trying to open the door, but it stood
firm under their pulling. They tried some
keys, but none would fit the lock, and
Sandy grinned as he thought of something
his grandfather used to say, — Lock your
door that you may keep your neighbor
"Let's smash it!" exclaimed the smallest
of the three, whom we know to be Stevens.
At the sound of his voice Sandy pricked
up his ears ; he was sure it must be the same
man who had spent a night at their cabin a
few days before, and stolen the knife. He
could not see their faces, however, because of
his position and their slouched hats.
" No," objected the tallest, whose voice
also seemed vaguely familiar to the listener
— " No, we don't want *em to know we've
been here ; leave no traces to set 'em a-watch-
ing. We musn't disturb nothing, and we
must get out o' here as soon as we can, so's
not to be caught prospectin' their trail.
What we want is to surprise 'em some fine
mornin', when they aint lookin' for no visitors,
drop on 'em like a gobbler on a June-bug. 1
reckon there'll be some regular squealing fun
'bout that time, eh, old pard ! " and Scotty
banged the rheumatic back of his squint-eyed
companion in a way that made Bob howl, and
did Sandy's heart good.
"You bet!" echoed Stevens, "and wont
there be a racket afterward ! I aint had a
real red-hot blow-out in a coon's age — I say,
pard, it'll be at my expense, remember, all at
my expense. I'll have the money and I'll
spend it too, you'll see ! "
SAND rS EA VESDROPPING.
Nae doot," was Sandy's inward soliloquy
overhead; **but I'm thinkin' ye're cawking
the claith ere the wab be in the loom."
Oh, dry up!" came the gambler's rejoin-
der. You're a fool ! You haven't got
inside the mine yet. Now, mates, I reckon
this is our best lay : To-day is Wednesday.
We need time to get an outfit to live on cached
near here, somewheres, so that after we've
captured the place we can hold the fort for a
little while, if they should come back at us.
You see we've got to give *em back their grub
and furniture, cause if we take that it's steal-
in y and we aint no thieves, leastwise not
in this deal."
" A liar should hae a gude memory,"
" And, besides, they could drop on us for
that, whereas this is a free country and we've
a perfect right to jump a man's claim — "
*'Pervided we kin hold it!" Old Bob
Yes, of course. Well, as I was a-saying.
SAND TS EA VESDROPPING.
to-day's Wednesday ; and I reckon Saturday
night's about our figure. We'll come up here
in the evening, and then along about twelve
o'clock we'll capture this 'ere mine, and then
bounce 'em right out o' their beds and send
'em down the canon. Next day, if they're
civil, we'll give 'em their blankets and notice
to leave. And if they aint civil — "
The villain paused and glared right and left
at his companions, with a satanic grin on his
face. Slowly drawing from the leg of his
rust-red cowhide boot a huge knife, he fin-
ished the sentence with slow and venomous
" We'll give 'em this!"
After that boodthirsty remark the three
conspirators rose from their seats and scram-
bled down the farther slope of the dump.
So cold and stiff was the young Highlander
with lying in wet clothes upon the rough
rocks, that at first he could hardly travel ;
but slowly picking his way down to the cabin
he made haste first to build a fire, and after
"WE'LL GIVE 'EM THIS.''
Silver Caves, Page 98.
giving himself a brisk rubbing, to put on dry
clothing, so that no ill result ensued.
He did not enjoy that night, alone among
those storm-breeding heights, nearly as much
as he had expected to, yet quickly fell asleep,
not to awake until rather late on the fol-
Hurrying through breakfast, he set off at
once down the trail in hope of meeting Max
and Len, for he thought it important to gain
every moment between that and Saturday in
the effort to forestall the enemy.
FACING THE NEW SITUATION.
FACING THE NEW SITUATION.
Sandy's partners, meanwhile, having left the
village as early as possible, had made so
good progress that the three met at about
the half-way point.
" Hello ! " Len sang out gaily, as he
caught sight of Sandy, " here's our canny
Scot ! But why makest thou such a walking
arsenal of thyself? 'Fraid of Injuns?"
" Weel," was the slow reply, as the tall son
of Saint Andrew glanced down at himself,
" he needs a long shankit spoon wha sups
kail wi' the deil. I'm no likin' neeknames as
a rule, but may be ye're no far wrang when
you ca' me an arsenal. Did ye obsairve the
new trick I've learned ? "
Stooping down, while the twinkle in his
eyes belied the gravity of his face, he
104 FACING THE NEW SITUATION.
solemnly pulled from his boot-leg the long
butcher-knife with which the boys were wont
to slice their bacon.
This was too much. Both tumbled upon
the nearest bed of moss and made the rocky
walls ring with shouts of laughter, but
Sandy remained as grave as an undertaker.
" Laugh at leisure, ye may greet ere e'en,"
he said in his proverbial style, adding, when
they had checked their merriment, Now if
you're wantin' to hear a vera pretty tale, why
I'm willin' to tell ye, though you've not been
ower respectfu' to a puir body during the last
five minutes or so."
*'Oh, go on Sandy, go on. We don't mind
you're making yourself a scalp hunter from
the wild west, if you like it. Go on, let's have
your story. What sort of a mare's nest have
you found this time } "
" I'm not sure ye quite heard my remark
aboot bein' respectfu' ; an' if I ha' foond a
mare's nest, I'm thinking ye'll find yoursel'
unco eenterested in the aiggs."
FACING THE NEW SITUATION.
After this parting shot Sandy began to tell
what he had seen and heard, as he lay on the
edge of the cliff. Two of the men he knew,
as we have seen, and his description of the
third at once identified him in the minds of
the rest as Old Bob.
" So that's where you learned to carry a
knife in your boot is it ?"
Ay," admitted Sandy, ''That's where I
learned it. I was tickled, dinna ye ken, wi'
the idea that a man like him, hating me as he
did, should be teachin' me sumthin'."
" But that's no way to carry a knife," Max
interrupted with fine contempt. At least
no gentleman would do so, though a gambler
" How then ? " asked Sandy, considerably
crest-fallen. " Where does a gentleman
usually carry his bowie-knife ? "
" Down the back of his neck."
*' Weel, weel, what would my old grand-
mither up in Dundee say to that ! This is
what I'm thinkin' she would remark, that a
io6 FACING THE NEW SITUATION.
wise man orets learnin' frae them that has
nane to themsel's."
This ten-strike scored to Scotch credit, they
settled down again to their study of the new
situation, the full meaning of which grew
upon them as they talked it over.
" It strikes me," said Sandy, " that it wad be
a gude thing if Bushwick were to go directly
back to town and see that Mr. Morris. Per-
haps, considerin' a' the saircumstances, he
would watch the rascals a wee bit. I suppose
he's na ower-fond o' that blackleg, and maybe
he wad come up on Saturday night, and so gie
us a bit o' help if we happened to be needin'
it. Meanwhile Brehm an' mysel' will put our
castle in a state o' defense, as it were."
This course was decided upon. Len
unslung his load of groceries, ammunition, the
ever-welcome mail, and other purchases, and it
was shouldered by Sandy, who gave him in
return one of his pistols. Then Len started
back toward town, caring little for the extra
FACING THE NEW SITUATION. 107
The other two lads meanwhile hastened
home, busily talking as they strode along.
Max recounted how Lennox had secured
an. entirely unbiased judgment from the old
miner, who had assured them positively that
the brown stuff which had been so long the
object of their attention was certainly a tel-
luride ore of gold, and apparently a rich one.
''Ay, that sounds well," Sandy assented,
"but can you be quite certain this Professor,
as you dub him, kens well what he's talkin'
aboot ? "
*' I think he does," Max assured his friend,
and gave his reason.
" But how has it escaped notice hereto-
fore ? " the Scotchman persisted.
"It's an extremely uncommon ore in north-
ern Colorado, where most of the mining has
been done up to this time, and few of our
citizens have ever seen it. Moreover, I sup-
pose the early prospectors here were looking
wholly for chlorides, or sulphurets, or ruby
silver, or some other well known ores of that
io8 FACING THE NEW SITUATION.
sort, and this is like none of these, or any
other silver indication I know of. Bnt if they
had gone a little deeper, I am inclined to think
they'd have found plenty of that, too, and
consequently, that we would never have got
possession of this prospect hole."
" What makes you say that?"
"Oh, I judge so from the way the rock
''Then you think we may strike a silver
ore in addition to this telluride of gold?"
" Don't know, can't see into the ground
further'n your pick-point. Sorry I didn't get
a letter from the Denver assayer, to whom we
sent our specimens for analysis. I expected
to have heard from him by this time."
As they neared the house they fell to dis-
cussing what it would be best to do toward
preparing for their unwelcome visitors.
Sandy asked why they could not have Old
Bob and his crew arrested, whereupon Max
explained the loose condition of legal matters
in that country, and that they had no ground
FACING THE NEW SITUATION.
to stand a trial upon. Sandy had no wit-
nesses to threats he had heard. They could
not legally prevent any one from going on the
Aurora dump, or into the Aurora tunnel, or
even from staying in it, since it was not their
property, and they themselves were there
only by permission. This gave them no
rights which they could defend without blame.
" But we have such rights in the Last
Chance premises," Sandy persisted, "and can
protect that ?"
Yes, but in this region it would be a
poor plan to call in the sheriff, at any
rate before we're attacked ; and when the
attack comes on I reckon the sight of that
knife-handle sticking out of your boot-leg will
keep 'em off better than all the sheriffs in the
San Juan. By the way, I can find a second
bowie for the other boot if you want it ! "
" Not this moment, thank'ee. Then as I
understand, you mean to let 'em take the
Aurora, but you'll fight for the Last Chance
and the cabin, our hearthstone, as it were?"
no FACING THE NEW SITUATION,
Yes, I don't see what else we can do. It
would be difficult to defend both if we tried,
and when they get possession of the Aurora
I fancy they wont go to any great trouble or
risk to wrest this from us. You see they
believe it is the Aurora we are working and
that there the riches lie. I don't believe
they have a hint of the cross-cut or the real
state of things, do you?"
Not to judge by what I overheard yes-
terday. But once they get possession of the
Aurora entrance, wont they be able to find it
all out in a few minutes, and seize on the
cross-cut and the new work ? Our army is
rather sma' to garrison the mine-chamber and
the cabin too ; besides, how can we get in or
out, if they hauld the entrance? I'm 'fraid,
my friend, ye're biting off mair than your
cheeks '11 hold."
" Not at all. Come w^ith me and I'll show
you how I mean to begin a flank move-
ment on the enemy."
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
Schemes looking toward the same object
were at the same time busily advancing down
at the camp.
Len had made his way back as rapidly as
possible, and fortunately met Morris just as
he was riding away into the mountains to be
gone over night. He explained to him the
whole situation, excepting that interview at
the Professor's, and at once enlisted his sym-
pathy and interest. This w^as doubled when
he heard that the real leader of the would-be
jumpers was his antagonist in that El Dorado
affair of which we have heard, whose over-
throw would give him much satisfaction. He
promised, therefore, that he would watch the
three rascals sharply, and would certainly be
on hand if they made any attempt to carry
out their plans.
114 PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
More'n that," he said, I shouldn't won-
der if Buckeye Jim would be there too.
That was all bosh, of course, that I told Bob
about his being dead. I didn't suppose the
old fool'd swallow it as slick as he did. All
the boys know he's 'live and hearty, and he
wrote me he was coming up here in a few days.
If he's on hand I 'low there'll be some fun."
I hope there wont be any fighting," said
** Oh, of course, we all hope that; we're all
men of peace up here ! All the same, if we
should happen to want to shoot at a mark on
t'other dump, or something of that kind, for a
little amusement, after supper, you know,
why it would do any fellow proud that hap-
pened to be over there, to kind o' lay low,
don't you see, for fear of stray bullets, cause
Jim and me shoots kind o' free when once we
And having delivered himself of this long
and oracular speech, Morris shook hands and
turned his broncho's head up hill.
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
Len might now have gone home, but he
thought it worth while, as another mail would
come in soon, to wait for possible letters, or
what were even more desirable, the news-
papers and magazines that his far-away peo-
ple at home sent with pleasant frequency.
He was rewarded by a bundle of these, and
one letter, addressed to Max. It bore the
card of the Denver assayer to whom speci-
mens of the ore from the interior of the
Last Chance had been sent for analysis.
Perhaps it might dash their hopes, and his
hand trembled a little as he put it away in
his pocket. Then he tied the newspapers in
his rubber coat, flung it over his shoulder,
and had turned his face homeward, when a
thouo^ht struck him.
Going back, he walked round the corner to
the office of the Bull Pup mine, which had
been bought, and was now operated, by a
Mr. Anderson, the same eastern capitalist
whose refusal to buy Old Bob's prospect had
been the beginning of Max's adventures and
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
our history, Len's intention was to ask the
agent whether Mr. Anderson was expected at
the camp soon, and what was his present
In response to these questions he learned
that Mr. Anderson would arrive ten days
hence, and that meanwhile he could be
communicated with at Denver.
I think, if you will let me sit down here a
moment, I will write a letter to him," said
" Certainly," the agent replied, and gave
him pen and paper.
His letter was a short one. It merely
recalled Max Brehm and himself to Mr.
Anderson's recollection, stated that they had
opened a prospect tunnel wherein they
believed they had discovered good indica-
tions of a new and valuable sort of gold ore
in paying quantities, and begged him to come
and see it as soon as he could, with a view of
buying a part of it, or otherwise helping them
to develop the mine.
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
This done, Len lost no time in leaving town.
Not a sign of either of the three blacklegs
had he seen all day, and when on his way
out he passed Old Bob's cabin, it was dark
In fact these worthies were not in town,
but early in the morning had gone up the
creek with two pack-loads of tools, provisions,
and so on, which they cached at Bob's old
prospect-hole, the Cardinal, in order to have
them convenient after they had jumped the
Aurora and had driven B. B. & Co., dead or
alive, out of the canon.
A new moon was just holding its sickle
over the notch in the mountains toward
which the canon opened, when Len reached
the cabin, where his tired partners were get-
ting supper ; and he was glad to learn, a little
later, that they approved his course in writing
the letter to Mr. Anderson.
Two days remained before the expected
attack, and the firm agreed that out of these
must be squeezed all possible advantage, by
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
double work. This was a time when, if their
fortune was to be made, or even if the results
already achieved were to be saved, every
effort must be put forth. They had wit
enough to see that whether the Last Chance
held a fortune, or contained nothing, it would
never do to relinquish it at this stage of trial.
Men who were on the threshold of success
have failed to attain it often because of the
want of sagacity to understand, and of energy
and self-sacrifice to work hard, at just such a
crisis as this. The next man, seizing with a
firm grip, and holding his chances at every
risk until the opposition has vanished, finds
a great reward.
But in order that our friends might hold
on to their property it was necessary to
put it on a war footing. Their way of oper-
ating the mine through the Aurora's tunnel
must be abandoned, of course, unless they
proposed to defend that, too, which they
could not do, as they had no legal rights
there. The plan proposed, then, was to en-
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
large the waterway through their own vein
into a tunnel of serviceable size, and at the
same time to turn the stream of water into
the Aurora, and drain the whole of the remoter
part of the mine out that way.
They abandoned their arrangement of two-
hour stints, and all worked together just as
hard as they knew how.
Going into the interior chamber of the
mine, they first dug a drain through the
cross-cut, and then, as fast as they tore
down the rock in enlarging their own tunnel
outward, it was heaped up in the cross-cut ;
for they wished to block that up completely.
By Friday night this barrier was almost
All were stiff and sore when they arose
at daybreak on Saturday morning, but each
knew they could not afford to spare them-
selves, and that this one day's hardship might
be repaid tenfold.
Before noon they tapped the main foun-
tain, and brought its stream, v.^hich would
I20 PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
have measured a foot wide and a foot deep,
into their new drain.
When this great point had been gained,
they felt that the worst was over, and by
night they had finished barricading the cross-
cut. They were obliged that evening, when
their day's work was done, to w'orm their way
out to daylight through the narrow, raggedy
insecure, and still dripping waterway which
threaded the Last Chance, but was by no
means a tunnel in any proper sense of
the word, nor a safe place for a man to
Lennox, who was of slighter build, and at
the same time of more enthusiatic tempera-
ment than his associates, was entirely used up
when he reached daylight, and could only fall
down and lie still. Fortunately for him, how-
ever, Sandy and Max had strength enough
left to cook supper.
While they were eating supper, and before
darkness had come, the three young miners
were startled by a loud hallo, and on running
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
to the door saw Morris sitting on horseback
at the foot of the dump.
''Can I ride up?" he called out.
" No, leave your nag down there. I'll show
you later how to get him around behind the
cabin, where there is some pasture."
So Morris drew the bridle reins over his
horse's head and let them hang down from
the bit, knowing that by this sign the horse
would understand that he was to stay where
he was until his rider returned. Then he
scrambled up the rough side of the dump, say-
ing, as he reached the top and shook hands
with Max :
" Well, you needn't worry over any jump-
" Why," exclaimed Len. " What's up ? "
" Oh, the regular thing with that crowd.
The minute they got a little excited over a
scheme, they had to go and drink a lot o'
whisky on it, and there they are, sittin' round
the El Dorado, stupid as ground-hogs. That
is, two of 'em are ; that beauty they call
122 PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
Scotty was a-begging to fight all hands when
I came away. I reckon somebody '11 accom-
modate him before midnight."
"An' did ye say he's called Scotty?"
asked Sandy, appearing in the doorway of
the cabin for the first time.
Yes, — why, hello, stranger ! You know
the El Dorado, when you see it, don't you ?
How are you," extending his hand with great
cordiality, ''put it thar ! I shouldn't won-
der if we could pull a double team when it
comes to layin' out that same gambler from
over the range, eh ? "
Weel, we hae done something o' the kind
a'ready, Mr. Morris, an' I dare say he's no in
love wi' eyther of us."
''Not he. He'd like nothing better than
to blow up the whole of us with giant pow-
der. Now how are you fellows going to
handle this crowd when they do try it on ?
I thought if you didn't mind I'd stay and
see the fun. Likely enough I could help
you some. When my Winchester here
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
turns loose people 'd better stand one
side ! "
So they explained to him how they had
used the Aurora as a new means of entrance
to their mine, the cutting of the cross-cut
through the dyke, and the way they had
closed this approach by turning all the water
into the other tunnel and barricading the
You see we had no right in the Aurora,
and couldn't fairly fight for it. So we made
up our minds to let 'em jump that and
" But I have rights there — Jim and I own
that together, and you've done enough work
on it to keep up the assessment, so that it's
ours, and nobody can jump it w^hile I'm
around, unless they're a heap stronger 'n
They argued with Morris as to the useless*
ness of this resolution. He admitted that
the Aurora wasn't worth fighting over, but
urged that it riled him to have it drop into
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
the clutches of such small potatoes as Old
Bob and his pals.
Finally, however, it was agreed that the
question of defending the Aurora should
be left until the attacking party appeared ;
and, meanwhile, that they would devote them-
selves to getting their own property into still
That night, relieved of the strain of watch-
ing, they had a long and refreshing sleep, con-
tinued until far into the morning, for this
The day of rest passed quietly.
Early on Monday they were at work again,
Morris helping. Two had picks and labored
in the interior of the tunnel, enlarging the
passage-way. A third shoveled the rock
torn down into a wheelbarrow and carried it
part way out, where the fourth gave him an
empty wheelbarrow, took his full one, and
dumped the debris at the mouth of the mine.
By this arrangement somebody was outside
nearly all the time and could watch against
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. 125
any surprise from the enemy, at the same
time contributing his share of labor.
All of Tuesday and Wednesday they were
undisturbed, and made such good progress
that by Wednesday evening a man could pass
readily into the farthest part of the mine,
the barricade protecting the cross-cut easily
against any enemy who could get to it by way
of the flooded Aurora. It was a great gain
in another direction, too, for they were ex-
pecting Mr. Anderson, and could now show
him the whole length of the mine.
THE ENEMY APPEARS.
THE ENEMY APPEARS.
On Wednesday afternoon Len stopped work
a little earlier than the others, though it was
quite dusk, and left the mine to get supper.
Turning his gaze down the cafton, the mo-
ment he came to the mouth of the tunnel, he
saw three men on horseback riding up the
trail nearly a mile away. It was merely by
good chance that he happened to catch a
glimpse of them, for h^d he been a moment
later they would have been out of sight, not
to reappear until the ford of the creek was
reached, which was only a few yards beyond
the foot of the Aurora dump.
Dropping his shovel he ran back and
reported, whereupon all hands hastened to
the mouth of the tunnel, and lay down behind
a rough sort of wall of loose rocks which had
I30 THE ENEMY APPEARS.
been heaped up in front of the cabin in clear-
ing the space around the door.
Ten or fifteen minutes passed, and the twi-
light was fast becoming dense in the canon,
though on the mountain-tops a full blaze of
light glowed strong and red, bringing out
every glorious feature of the white-headed
Soon was heard the stumbling clatter, not
loud, yet distinct enough, of horses' shodden
feet on the stony path, and, as the riders
came nearer, the faint sound of human voices.
A moment after this the three figures came
into view, riding cautiously through the ford,
peering right and left, with guns in readiness,
as though fearful of ambuscades. A few
steps further took them out of sight behind
the jutting headland of the Aurora dump.
Then came sounds denoting that the
jumpers had dismounted and were unsaddling.
The clatter of the heavy wooden stirrups
echoed along the rocky walls of the narrow
gulch as the saddles were flung down.
THE ENEMY APPEARS.
After a short interval of silence, it became
plain, by the rattle of rolling stones, that
the invaders were charging up the dump.
Instead of trying to steal to the top, they
sprang up as fast as they could scramble.
" It's evident," whispered Sandy, " that
they're expectin' to catch us in that tunnel
like a fox wi' his * earth ' stopped. But it's a
puir fox that has na mair than one hole to
his burrow ! "
Sandy seemed to have hit it, for their
first act, when Bob, Scotty and Stevens had
reached the crest, and found no one there,
was to rush to the door as though to shut it
and fasten it.
Imagine their chagrin when they saw that
it was already closed, and that a great quan-
tity of water was rushing out under the sill.
They pointed one another to it, as though
asserting that nobody could work in a tunnel
which was as nearly flooded as that. Still, to
make matters quite sure, they began to heap
great rocks at the door and kept at it until no
132 THE ENEMY APPEARS.
three giants, much less our not over stalwart
friends, could have forced it open.
It was vastly amusing to the spectators to
see these men, who were more distinguished
for their laziness than for their energy, toil at
the big stones, and when, having made sure
they'd secured full possession of the place,
they sat down and wiped their brows, Max
and Len and Sandy suddenly rose up and
wished them good-evening.
" Thought you'd tree'd us in that hole, eh ?"
Len sings out with a sneering laugh. " Not
much ! We've been waiting for you fellows
half the week. Why didn't you come up
Saturday night as you promised ? "
Astounded and angry, the three ruffians
hurled back a lot of brag and bad language,
the substance of which was that nobody dare
come and take back the Aurora.
They replied with a laugh, and went
in with a parting shot in broad Scotch :
It's the life o' an auld hat to be weel
THE ENEMY APPEARS. 133
Morris had already sneaked into the house
and was slicing bacon for supper.
I'll lay low for the present, I reckon," he
said, 't wont do no harm, and it may be worth
something to let those fellows think you're
A few moments later Sandy stepped out,
and was amazed to find two of the adversaries
stealing up the bank beside the cabin.
His alarm brought Max and Len in a hurry,
and when they found themselves discovered
the roughs retreated in great haste and a
cloud of wrathful phrases, while Max shouted :
''Hereafter we shall be watching, and it wont
be healthy for any man to set foot on this
side of the gulch."
''Those men mean business, for sure," Mor-
ris asserted, and added this counsel : " We
musn't show ourselves any morn we can
help, and especially at night by the firelight.
And it wouldn't be a bad idea to make a
better breastwork when it gets so dark they
can't see what we're doing."
THE ENEMY APPEARS.
" We might hang blankets on the wall along
that side of the cabin, so that no one could
see to shoot through the chinks," Len sug-
" Yes, that's a good scheme, and somebody
must be on watch night and day lest they play
some trick on us. I don't think they'll shoot
in the daytime, but I'll bet they '11 take the
first chance at night they can get. I tell you,
gentlemen, not only your mine, but your lives
are at stake in this yere scrimmage, and it'll
stand you in hand to take mighty good care
This was from Morris and was sober talk,
but seemed to be no less than the truth, con-
sidering the character of the desperadoes.
Acting upon the suggestion, in his prompt,
quiet way. Max remarked that he would take
the first watch, and going to the door of the
cabin which, it will be remembered, looked
down the canon, and hence faced the Aurora,
opened it and started to pass out.
Before he could step across the threshold, a
THE ENEMY APPEARS.
faint report rang out, not loud nor sharp, for
the air was too thin to let much noise be
made, and with an audible pmg a bullet
splintered the log over the door.
Max dropped so quickly his chums thought
for an instant he must have been hurt, but he
shouted Keep back ! Keep back ! " and
at once began to wriggle forward under
cover of the wall toward the brink of the
Dropping on hands and knees they followed
him, and a few seconds later all four were
lying behind the pile of stones, peering out
into the gloom.
Nothing could be seen, or even heard, for
a time, but presently muttered talking was
detected on the other hillock and our friends
concluded that the shot did not mean an at-
tack, but had been fired, sharpshooter fashion,
when Max exposed himself in the brightly
lighted doorway. The enemy's camp had
evidently been made down behind the shelter
of the dump, as was shown by the light re-
136 THE ENEMY APPEARS,
fleeted from the fire, but neither the blaze nor
its kindlers were visible, so that the compli-
ment of the shot could not have been returned
had our boys felt so disposed.
I make no doot they're watching us as
shairp as we're peerin' at them," whispered
Sandy ; and the sooner we improve our
fortifications, the better."
Max watched until midnight, then crept
softly to where Morris was stretched upon the
cabin floor and asked him to take his place;
but nothing disturbed them, and the next
morning two of the boys went to their work
in the mine, leaving two outside on guard.
These improved their time in strengthening
the breastwork and in curtaining with blankets
that wall of the cabin. In the afternoon they
exchanged places with the men in the tunnel.
The jumpers were seen about the Aurora,
but nothing was said to them. They broke
down the mine door, and penetrated the tun-
nel a short distance, but soon returned, dis-
couraged by the wetness within.
THE ENEMY APPEARS.
The night passed quietly and Friday morn-
ing went by without any incident. About
the middle of the afternoon, while Len and
Sandy were outside, Old Bob and Scotty
came to the edge of the Aurora dump, and
held aloft a pole with a handkerchief, sup-
posed to be white, tied upon it, which they
waved toward the cabin.
" What do you mean by that?" Len sung
out, for he and Sandy happened to be on duty
"Flago' truce," Bob yelled back. ''One
o* you fellers come down in the hollow and
meet me. I want to talk. Leave yer gun
behind. I aint got no arms, you see. Will
you come ? "
" I reckon. Hold on, I'll see my partner !"
Len lighted a little lamp and disappeared
into the mine, whence he returned in five
minutes. Max and Morris came as far as the
door, but did not show themselves.
" All right," Len called out, as he blew out
his lamp and climbed over the breastwork.
138 THE ENEMY APPEARS.
" Come down in the hollow if you want to
Old Bob moved clumsily down from the
Aurora to meet him, while Sandy perched
himself on the wall and Bob's friends stood
behind him on their own knoll.
A FLAG OF TRUCE.
A FLAG OF TRUCE.
The younger man reached the bottom the
sooner, and sitting down began to shy peb-
bles at a bowlder a few yards below, to see
how far they would glance.
Bob came lumbering down the slope of
loose stones, took a seat pretty near Len, and
slowly drawing his knife from his pocket,
opened it with great deliberation and began
to whittle at a bit of spruce bark.
Nothing was said for some time, and
neither took any notice of the other. Each
was waiting for his opponent to begin. At
last the eager disposition of the young Vir-
ginian, who never could bear to waste time in
going about whatever he had to do, and who
in consequence had often exemplified the
maxim more haste less speed," overcame
his reserve and broke the silence.
A FLAG OF TRUCE.
** Well, Bob," he began in a careless man-
ner, " I never expected to see you in as mean
a scrape as this."
If our embassador had studied over it for a
week, he could not have made a remark
which would better serve his purpose. Bob
had long deemed himself a very wily old dog
indeed. He had boasted of this to his asso-
ciates more than once, and had assured them
that they would see how, on this occasion, he
would argify and bamboozle that young cub
of a Bushwick" until, figuratively speaking, he
had tied him all up in a bundle and laid him
away on a shelf in safe storage.
But Len's cool remark, driving straight
home to the very heart and spirit of all his
pretensions, let the wind out of Old Bob's
behavior and arguments together. It angered
him in an instant, and when a diplomat gets
angry he loses his power. Instead of the
soft words and sly reasoning by which he had
hoped to fool his antagonist into opening his
doors to the treachery which it was intended
A FLAG OF TRUCE.
should follow ; instead of the pretty speeches
which Bob had carefully thought out and
talked over, came furious retorts, bad lan-
guage, and threats, to which Len listened with
the utmost composure.
The substance of it all was, that Bob and
his precious accomplices had jumped the
mine, and yet they hadn't jumped it, rightly
speaking, because they had as much right
there as anybody. The claim had been
abandoned, and if anybody had gone to work
at it why that was at their own risk, and they
mustn't complain when another man came
along and took it away from the first party.
Now I've got this yere 'Rora mine,"
Bob shouted excitedly, " and I'm goin' to keep
it, don't you forget that ! An' w^ot's more,
my friend Mr. Stevens is agoin' to jump
that claim you're holdin' now, 'n' that cabin.
That cabin belonged to my friend Pickens,
'n' he told me, before he went away, that
if I wanted it I could have it, and I can
A FLAG OF TRUCE.
Now," Bob kept on, " you young roos-
ters 'd better give up and crawl out. We'll
give you a chance to get away and take your
blankets and things if you'll quit peaceable-
like and git out. We don't want no trouble,
nor nobody hurted."
Then why did you put a ball into our
doorpost?" interrupted his listener.
Scotty did that. I told him 't wa'n't on the
squar, an' 'twas kinder haxidental anyhow.
If you'll quit shootin' at us we wont shoot at
you, — an' / wouldn't nohow."
" We haven't fired a shot."
•'You're jist ready to all the time," Bob
persisted, " so 's we gentlemen can't work our
property for fear of you."
"You 'gentlemen'! Your 'property'!"
repeated Lennox, with infinite scorn.
" Yes, ours. And, as I was sayin', we'll go
to town and get help, if we arn't enough
alone, and we'll bounce you out o' that cabin
which we want for ourselves, and you may
thank your stars if you get out with whole
A FLAG OF TRUCE.
skins. The hull filin' of ye must pack up and
scoot 'fore sundown."
That's rather sudden," Len pleaded ;
" can't you give us till to-morrow morning ?
It looks like it was going to rain to-night."
" Well, we don't want to be rough on
young chaps like you, though you're too
cheeky for these parts," Bob conceded, think-
ing he had frightened the lad ; and we wont
crowd ye to-night. But, by this, that and the
other ! if you don't skip out early to-morrow
you'll hear from us, you bet ! "
All right ! " Len rejoined. " I'll tell the
boys. I'm glad you gave us till to-morrow to
get out, for it looks mighty like a storm to-
It required only a very brief report from
Lennox to acquaint the firm with what Bob
had threatened, and, no doubt, would try to
They have no suspicion," Len asserted,
**that Morris is with us, and it will be a good
thing if we can continue to keep it secret."
A FLAG OF TRUCE.
" They'll find it out mighty sudden and
pointed-like," muttered Morris, " if they don't
There was a pause for a moment or two,
until Len remarked that he supposed some-
thing should be said, or the enemy would
think they intended to act upon Bob's bluster
and abandon the claim, " which, of course,
nobody thinks of doing for an instant."
" I understand it's ours, fair and square,"
said Sandy, " and sin' possession's nine points
of the law, we might as well haud on for the
other point. I remember that my grand-
feyther used to say to us bairns, — ' better to
keep the deil wi'oot the door, than drive him
oot o* the hoose.' I'm thinking, though, I'd
like to take that gambler-man by the nape of
his neck and gie him the name of an auld
Scotch dance down the bank, — I mean the
Highland fling, ye ken?"
Max did not join in the laugh ; in his
despondent way, he was filled with hesitation
which none of the others felt. Had he been
A FLAG OF TRUCE.
quite alone, I'm not sure how much he might
have wavered, postponed, and yielded ; but
while all were waiting for him to say some-
thing, a shout came across from the other
What're you fellers a-goin' to do ?"
Len was roused. The indignation he had
repressed hitherto now came to the surface.
" I'll show those miserable sneaks that they
can't bluff me!''' he exclaimed; and spring-
ing upon a heap of stones, he yelled back :
"You know you lied about your right to
this mine. We bought it and we're going to
keep it. If you want it you've got to take it,
and you'd better look right sharp after your
own stake. This is 'what we're a-goin' to do ! ' "
" Well," said Max, as the excited lad leaped
down out of rifle-range, " you've declared war
for certain, and I imagine we'll have to fight
it out on this line if it takes all — "
"Don't say * summer'; there's snow and
frost enough in this wind to furnish a Vir-
A FLAG OF TRUCE.
Well — all Winter, then. But they wont
try it on — they know better."
Evidently Max's indecisions were over.
No," Morris agreed, " I don't think
they'll attack by themselves, but they can
make about as much trouble for you by
simply staying there."
''Besides," Sandy put in, " one of 'em '11
start to town as soon as it comes dark, and na
doot can find plenty o' their own kind, who
wad like na better sport than to join in a
scheme o' this nature."
" I can put a stop to that," said Morris.
" Nobody '11 try to get away till night, and
by that time I'll be down there to stop him,
whoever he is, and send him back again with
a flea in his ear."
" How will you get down the canon without
their spotting you ? "
" I'll climb up the cliff and work my way
down about a quarter of a mile away. I
know a spot that'll suit me to a T. I wish
A FLAG OF TRUCE.
Buckeye Jim was here, we'd make a break for
those jumpers and clean out the whole nest
in no time. He'd oucrht to a' been here
before this. Mebbe he's in town now —
there's no telling."
Likely enough Mr. Anderson is there
by this time, too," said Len.
" Why, would it not be a good plan, borrow-
ing a hint from the adversary, for one of us
to go to town and be ready to hasten these
gentlemen, or perhaps get assistance other-
wise ? "
It was Sandy who made this suggestion, to
which, at first, there was only silent attention.
" I'm thinkin' that the three of us left can
stand off, as ye say, those fellows yonder, and
if we can manage to hold 'em all in, our
agent would come back with an overwhelm-
ing force and put 'em wholly to rout."
" I guess you're right, Sandy — but who
Weel, I'm vera willing to do that, or any-
thing as ye weel ken, but Tm so much of a
A FLAG OF TRUCE,
stranger in town, that probably I could be of
more use here."
**I reckon I'm your man," said Len. "Max
and Morris are both too heavy weights to be
spared from the garrison, while I can do as
well on this errand as any one else, I
" It's no fun for you to walk all the way
down that mountain trail, with the weather
so threatening, but undoubtedly you might
gain a great deal for us," Max interposed.
"If he didn't get any more men to come
up," Morris suggested, " he might be able to
stop the other crowd's getting any recruits."
"Yes, that's so. When shall I start?"
" The sooner the better," said Max and
Sandy in the same breath.
" Meaning after dark this evening," added
Morris. "You go along down with me, and
mebbe I'll show you a bit of fun to cheer you
up. It'll be early moonlight ; you wont have
a bad tramp."
DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE.
SOME DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE.
This settled, Max and Sandy returned to
their mining, while Len and Morris lay down
behind the newly-strengthened breastwork.
The elder man filled his pipe and stretched
himself in the sunshine, while Len brought
out one of the few books they had and read
the stirring story of the robber Doones, and
the giant farmer who got his sweetheart from
among them by such a pleasant mixture of
strategy and strength.
Morris was interested, but his position was
easy, the pipe was soothing, the sun was
warm, and Len's steady tones were slumber-
ous in their influence. The reader, there-
fore, presently found his listener asleep, in
spite of his interest and his resolution. See-
ing this he shut the book, and fell into a
154 DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE.
reverie over the stranoe series of circum-
stances that had brouorht him to this remote
spot and outlandish surroundings, how —
Crack — ping !
Morris vi^as wide-awake. Len's dreams
had vanished. Both men were on their
knees behind the breastwork, guns in hand
and every sense alert.
On the opposite dump they saw all three
of the jumpers sitting with guns by their
sides. They were gesticulating toward the
smooth, whitish panel on the cliff walk which
showed where the dyke had been cut through
by the ice and floods that in ages past had
carved this channel in the mountain side ;
they seemed to be paying no attention to the
Last Chance people, but were pointing as
though at a target, on the face of the cliff.
After a short time Scotty raised his rifle and
took steady aim, apparently at the target
previously pointed out. The report of his
gun was followed by the sharp click of the
ball against the porphyry wall, and then by
DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 155
its rattling among the rock on the slope of
the dump in front of our sentinel friends.
What do you suppose they're shooting
at?" muttered Len, straining his eyes to find
Morris did not reply. He was watching
the enemy going through another pantomime,
which looked as though Bob was explaining
something wrong in the shot. This was
speedily concluded by Scottys moving his
position and aiming a third time at the face of
the cliff, sighting at a little different angle
Crack ! — ping ! went the report, and almost
at the same instant a spruce log which lay
just in front of Morris's face jarred under the
blow of a half-ounce of lead, which sank deep-
ly into its tough core.
" Great Harry ! " shouted the incensed
miner, ''They're caroming on us !"
And before Len could interfere, Morris rose
on one knee, brought his rifle to bear on the
gambler, and pulled the trigger.
156 DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE.
Scotty's hat flew off, and he tumbled over,
while Bob and Stephens let loose a volley,
which rattled harmlessly against the breast-
But Morris's snap shot had not gone quite
true, for Scotty picked himself up almost in-
stantly and scrambled out of range, followed
by his two companions.
This firing had brought Sandy and Max to
the door of the mine with anxious faces, and
you may believe they were not only enraged,
but made very solicitous by the incident.
"It's clear," remarked Max, "that they
mean to kill us if they can do so without open-
handed murder. Of course they intended
those balls to glance and hurt somebody."
" I meant mine to, anyhow ! " exclaimed
** I am glad you fired ; it'll teach those
scoundrels that we are wide-awake. But do
you not think they knew you ! "
" No, they couldn't see well enough. I was
kneeling behind the wall."
DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 157
*' There is a' the mair necessity, Mr. Bush-
wick," remarked Sandy, why you should go
to town to-night."
" I feel it strongly, and Morris and I'll get
away as soon as it is dark. You fellows have
worked enough to-day, haven't you ? Sup-
pose you stay out now."
All right ; we will. We've got a fair sort
of a hole in there, anyhow. It's pretty deep,
and a man can walk upright all the way except
in one or two places."
They saw no more of the enemy that day,
however, and Sandy occupied himself by cook-
ing an extra good supper.
By seven o'clock that evening a deep
gloom filled the gulch, and was scarcely less
heavy on the cliffs, for thick clouds stretched
like a canopy from peak to peak.
The only means by which the jumpers
could get away from their camp was by the
trail down the canon, along which, during day-
light, any one would be exposed for some dis-
tance to the fire of our friends in the garrison.
158 DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE.
From the Last Chance, however, a man
might easily ascend, as we know, and then, by
care and trouble, he could pass along ledges
above the Aurora, to where, some distance
beyond, a crevice enabled him to clamber
down to the bottom of the gulch, a few hun-
dred yards below where the trail crossed the
This is what Morris and Len did, as soon
as the shadows of the range enveloped them
in its curtaining gloom. When they had made
their way far enough, they crept to the edge
of the cliff, and could see the jumpers eating
their supper around their fire on the safe side
of the dump. A horse was hitched near by,
and Old Bob was saddling him.
You are right," Lennox whispered.
He's going to town to-night, and is most
ready to start. We'd better hurry up, if you
want to get into ambush ahead of him."
Moving as quietly as possible, they hast-
ened to where the shelving of the cliff let
them get down to the bed of the creek.
A SHORT CUT.
Silver Caves, Page 159.
DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 159
Just as they reached this point, where they
most needed the light to aid them, a fierce
squall swept down upon the groaning and
cracking branches of the spruce fringing the
border of the crags, the air became suddenly
colder, and whirling volleys of snowflakes
were dashed in the faces of the wanderers.
This is bad!" growled Morris. "'Taint
none too easy a job to crawl down here in
daylight, let alone trying to do it in this
pitch ; look out ! "
Len had slipped on a wet stone and started
to make the descent by an extremely short
cut, but caught hold of a young tree stem just
in time to stop himself. Warned by this,
they felt their way with more caution, and
finally succeeded in clambering down to the
creek-bed without serious mishap. On reach-
ing the trail the coating of snow was found
undisturbed, showing that as yet no one had
passed over it.
A few rods below, the path was crowded
into a narrow passage between a steep bank
i6o DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE.
and the water. This place Morris thought
would suit his purpose capitally, and here he
proposed to meet the unsuspecting enemy and
turn him back.
His first movement was to cut and care-
fully trim a stout cudgel.
" Quakin-asp is the kind of a stick to
make his bones ache," said Morris, as he
trimmed away the twigs.
" I've no doubt of it, and I'd like to stay
and see the fun, but I reckon I'd better mosey
if I'm to get to town before this snow buries
" You bet you had ! " was the earnest
advice of his roughly-speaking but good-
hearted comrade. " Its no soft job you've got
on hand, and you want to be mighty careful.
Got a thick overcoat ? "
Any matches ? "
Yes, lots of 'em."
Got your pistol ? "
" Yes, borrowed Max's. Thought I might
DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. i6i
meet wolves. I've heard 'em howl down here
once or twice."
They're 'round on snowy nights, but
they're cowardly. Any whisky ? "
•* No ; and I don't want any."
" Hm ! I'm not so sure about it. Whisky's
always good, I'm thinkin', especially on a cold
niq^ht like this."
You and Old Bob could ao^ree on one
point, at any rate."
'* Me and Squint-eyes agree 1 — not much !
Still, — w^hisky's good."
Well, I'll wager you a jug o' molasses,
or a new hat, that I can get to town better to-
night without whisky than with it."
" Mebbe you're right. I know whisky's
done me a heap more harm 'n it ever did me
good, or any other fellow I ever heard of.
Still, whisky's good ! "
Len laughed at this defiance of rhyme and
reason, and shaking hands, started away, Mor-
ris calling out as a last word that if he lost
the trail in the snow, or got bewildered, the
i62 DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE.
only proper thing to do was to build a fire
and camp right there," instead of working
into worse difficulties.
The brief gale with which the storm had
leaped down from its headquarters in the
heights of the Sierra had wholly subsided
now, or only reappeared in occasional momen-
tary squalls. The snow continued falling
steadily, nevertheless, and already the
ground, tops of the bushes, and all the pro-
truding rocks were white. The stars of
course were blotted out, but there was
a pale, unearthly luminosity in the air which
showed that somewhere the moon was
How splendid a sight it would be,"
thought the plucky young traveler as he
pushed steadily on, to be above this storm,
and able to look down upon the wide sea of
heaving, billowy snow-clouds, a sea of wan,
soft vapor, gleaming in the moonlight here
and there as rounded masses are rolled up-
ward, and showing shadowy hollows or
DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE, 163
curving wrinkles, coming and going, forming
and changing before one's eyes."
Len had no great difficulty in keeping upon
the trail, though he often felt himself in very
delicate places where a wrong step might
mean a bad fall, if not death.
In the wooded district lying between the
Panther Creek gorge and the village side of
the mountain, he got bewildered once or
twice, but by keeping his wits about him
passed safely beyond the forest, and felt
thereafter in no great danger of going astray.
Yet he was not prepared for the way the
storm had quickly disguised all the land-
marks, so that he found the trail unexpect-
edly hard to follow.
This latter half of the journey was the
strangest part of all. Now that he had got
out of the gorge and past the woods upon
the ridge, he could see abroad for the most
part ; but the whole wide and beautiful land-
scape with which he had grown familiar was
so lost and transformed that it was hard to
i64 DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE.
recoornize its most familiar features. Where
in the summer daylight, of that wonderfully
crystal-clear daylight of the alpine air, he had
been confronted by bold bluffs and clearly
cut, prominent peaks, only the vaguest out-
lines of a few of the nearest headlands now
appeared. Everything else was hidden under
a veil of snowflakes. To his left, as he
reached the opening, half-way down, which
allowed the broadest view, a misty expanse
took the place of a well-known rank of tower-
ing peaks ; in front, an undefined, Titanic
shadow against the sky showed dimly the wall
of guardian cliffs enclosing the valley ; while
at the right, clusters of rugged and spruce-
grown foot-hills were merged and invisible
under the graceful arch of a mighty dome,
faintly outlined in the tumult of the storm,
which was wrapping its mantle so swiftly
round every mountain.
In spite of his haste, and of the cold wind
which hurled the powdered snow against his
face and drove it into the crevices of his
DANGEROUS TARGET PRACTICE. 165
clothing, Lennox stood still here to gaze upon
this shadowy picture of a new world, this
ghostly Walpurgis Night, which formed the
most impressive scene he had ever beheld.
And as he gazed, there came faintly to his
ear, from far up the mountain behind him, a
long, shrill scream as of some one in deadly
Len knew it was the cry of the mountain
lion, but in that palely-lighted dance of the
snow-spirits among these awful rocks, it might
well have been taken for the last cry of some
forlorn and freezing witch.
Shaking off these fancies and the snow
together, our hero turned his steps down-
ward, and an hour later aroused the aston-
ished landlord and w^ent to bed at the hotel,
thoroughly tired, but safe and far ahead of
OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING.
OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING.
Morris had not to wait more than fifteen
minutes after Len's departure before he found
his work at hand. The snow so softened the
trail that the sound of the horse's hoofs were
not heard until they had approached within a
few feet of the ambush, and amid the blinding
flakes, it was impossible to recognize the face
of the well-muffled rider.
It was certainly Old Bob, however, who had
been seen saddling the horse, and Morris con-
cluded that the man before him was he. Had
it been Scotty, he might have hardened his
heart to almost any degree of severity, but
heretofore he had had no quarrel with Bob,
for whom he felt contempt chiefly, and he
intended to let him off as easily as it would
be safe to do.
170 OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING,
Rousing himself at the sound of the stumb-
ling nag, Morris had but half a minute to pause,
before suddenly springing in front of the
horse, with a blow at the animal's head and a
yell like a wild Shoshone.
The startled and punished animal reared,
spun round in the narrow trail as nimbly as a
deer could have done, slipped on the wet
stones, and fell headlong over the low bank at
the edge of the trail, flinging his astounded
rider over his head into the creek.
Morris, delighted at the effect of his first
charge, followed it up with a second whoop,
hearing which the horse picked himself up and
rushed up the trial at break-neck speed, fright-
ened out of its senses.
Old Bob, panic-stricken, dumb-founded, and
shocked by his fall, was just rising from the
shallow water, when Morris got down the
bank. Leaping upon him, he seized the
wretched victim by collar, and shook him by
both hands as a terrier does a rat. Then
snatching up his stick he began to lay it vigor-
OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING. 171
ously over Bob's shoulders, keeping at it
uPxtil the old fellow could find enough of his
scattered wits and tangled legs to enable him
to run away.
Get back in your hole, you old sarpint ! "
Morris yelled, as he flung his cudgel after the
retreating enemy. '* Next time you thieves
want to sneak off to town, mind you get per-
mission of your betters ! "
To this Bob replied, as was expected, by a
couple of shots from his revolver, which, up to
this time, he had fairly forgotten in the sur-
prise of the unexpected attack, but Morris
dodged behind a rock at the first flash, and
no harm was done.
He did not return this random fire, but kept
wide-awake for a few minutes, thinking Bob
might come back with his companions. This,
however, he did not do, and Morris lost no
further time in starting home.
Bob admitted afterward, that he thought
that at least two men had attacked him, which
spoke well for Morris's activity, and that it
172 OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING.
was Max who was giving him the shaking.
Wet, sore, chilled and altogether dazed, he
was in no condition to lead an attack against
an ambushed enemy in the middle of a snowy
night, nor were his accomplices eager to go
and avenge his wrongs, preferring, so long as
their own precious skins remained whole, to
stay where they were and scold at him for his
All this happened on Friday night, and to
that fact the superstitious miner attributed
The storm ceased before daybreak. Then
what a strange, new, glorious landscape was
that the sun rose upon ! Its beams streamed
athwart limitless spaces of snow. Overhead,
the height Sandy had partly ascended rose in
rounded outlines, a huge dome of unblemished
white. Ahead, as if a mighty drift had been
heaped across the gap between the mountains,
lay the saddle over which the trail led through
the woods ; and inside the gorge all the
roughnesses were smoothed, all the bowlders
OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING. 173
and prostrate logs, the boughs of the spruces
and cottonwoods, bushes, ferns, and weeds,
were packed full and weighed down with the
soft and flurrv flakes.
Beyond calling for a little shoveling inside
the fort, the snow was no hindrance, of
course, to the underground work of the firm
of B. B. & Co. They hammered away at
improving their tunnel all day on Saturday
and until late at night, and followed it by
a pleasant Sunday's rest, in spite of their
cramped quarters and tedious guard-duty.
The case was far different with the unfor-
tunate jumpers, who, at the Aurora, had no
shelter, and no way of getting free from the
snow and the wet.
This misfortune was doubled by a thaw on
Sunday afternoon, suddenly letting loose a
great flood of melted snow, and turning the
creek into a torrent, which, before Monday
morning, had so swollen as to cover the trail
and ford with a rushing flood six or eight feet
deep, that it would have been madness to cross.
174 OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING.
Old Bob and his companions, therefore,
were not only very uncomfortable, but
between the impassable creek and the unscal-
able wall on one side, and the rifles of our
friends on the other, they were really
I reckon they're getting hungry over yon-
der, too," remarked Morris, when a heavy
rain on Monday night had produced a second
flood in the creek. " I don't believe they
have grub enough to last much longer. They
couldn't have brought a great deal with 'em,
and it must be about used up."
That was the fact of the case. Rations
were growing very short in the enemy's camp,
and if the end had not come pretty soon they
would have been obliged to surrender, since
it was impossible to get to where their provis-
ions had been cached with such great labor
preparatory to this campaign.
Even to our friends, who had no such mis-
eries to fret them, the situation was becom-
ing extremely monotonous and annoying.
OLD BOB TAKES A THRASHING. 175
Max was glum and anxious. Sandy had lost
his humor. Morris would growl softly at him-
self first for letting Old Bob get away with a
single unbroken bone, and then for having
allowed that kid, as he called Len, to go on
alone to town in the storm. It was tedious
enough to be shut up in this cabin, in the
midst of such miserable weather, and in
hourly danger of a bullet in one's brain, but
when to that was added the worry over Len's
safety, the suspense became nearly unen-
THE FIGHT AT THE FORD.
THE FIGHT AT THE FORD.
** I TELL you what it is ! " exclaimed Morris,
as Wednesday morning brought no tidings,
and the clouds began to break away, ** if that
kid, or somebody else, don't show up to-day,
I'm going to look him up. I oughtn't to 'a'
been such a dod rotted fool as to let him go
No one opposed an objection ; in fact it
would have done no good if they had, since
Morris was his own master, while at the same
time, every one hoped he would be saved the
The two went to work after breakfast, as
usual, in the tunnel, and rejoined Sandy, who
had combined sentinel with kitchen duty, to
eat a famous dinner about one o'clock. The
sun had been out an hour or two, and the
i8o THE FIGHT AT THE FORD.
creek had fallen so rapidly, that Max thought
it might now be crossed at a pinch.
'* Heard anything from our neighbors this
morning?" the guard was asked.
Not a word. I was a leetle suspeecious
in consequence, and kept my een peeled
as ye say out here, but I kenned naething
They're up to some trick or other, you
can bet your boots," was the opinion of Mor-
ris, who followed his words by going out and
peering through crevices in the barricade at
the enemy's fortifications.
He had no more than got there, when they
heard him yell out in angry astonishment,
and when they hurried out of the cabin were
amazed to see him standing on top of the
wall, rifle in hand, like a picture of Sergeant
Jasper at New Orleans.
" Look there, will you ?" he shouted, point-
ing down the cafton.
The place where the trail was visible from
the cabin was a stretcli of about forty yards,
THE FIGHT AT THE FORD, i8i
so situated between the cliff and the creek,
that any one going up or down could not
escape coming under rifle range from the fort.
At its further end was the ford of the creek,
which with the rise of the opposite bank
could also be seen, a protruding bastion of
rock cutting off all further view of the trail
for a mile or more.
At the instant Morris had glanced through
the crevice in the wall, he had seen his old
enemy Scotty riding his horse at the top of
its speed toward the creek, into which he was
about to plunge, when he suddenly reined up,
and seizing his rifle from the leathern sling,
which held it balanced on the horn of his
saddle, lifted it toward his shoulder. His
horse, however, alarmed at the rapid motion,
gave a shying jump, which nearly dislodged
the man from the saddle, and the gun went
off before any aim had been taken.
It was at this juncture that Morris had
leaped upon the wall, and Sandy and Max had
followed. Before they had time to speculate
THE FIGHT AT THE FORD.
upon the matter, there rushed into view down
the opposite bank of the creek the stalwart,
buckskin-clothed form of Buckeye Jim, level-
in or a revolver at the disconcerted horseman,
who with quick presence of mind threw his
hands above his head in sigfn of surrender
and so saved his life, — "a great peety ! " in
Sandy s opinion.
Close behind Jim was to be seen Lennox
with a stranger whom nobody at first recon-
ized ; and a moment later Mr. Anderson rode
into view, driving slowly ahead of him the
horses of the other three.
Jim still kept Scotty under his eye, while
the others mounted and waded the stream,
The stranger approached Scotty and took his
rifle away from him, while Len seized the
bridle of his horse. Then the hands came
down and were placed behind his back, where
they remained as though fastened, after which
the cavalcade started up the trail toward the
Scotty's been handcuffed," Morris ex-
THE FIGHT AT THE FORD.
plained, when he saw these movements. I
can tell by the way he rides."
Suddenly Max exclaimed, " They're run-
ning- right against the others' guns," and
leaping over the wall he hurried, revolver in
hand, straight toward the Aurora's dump.
Divining his intention, the others followed
him, stumbling over the slushy and rolling
stones in hot haste, and rushed up the face of
the enemy's embankment like a storming
party. They had almost as far to go as the
others, and must make haste, breath or no
breath. It was well they did so, for the first
thing that met their eyes when they had
reached the top of the dump, was Old Bob
and Stevens lying behind two logs, guns in
hand, ready to shoot the instant the approach-
ing party should get clear of the last thicket.
Waiting for no orders or permission, Mor-
ris drew bead on the nearest man and fired,
and with an awful cry Stevens sprang to his
feet and fell back a senseless heap on the
THE FIGHT A T THE FORD.
Bob, thunder-struck, whirled round to find
the three men above him and all hope gone.
Dropping on his knees in abject terror, and
green with fright, the miserable poltroon
shrieked for mercy, and he received the boon
with the contempt of his foes not only, but of
his friends, for the captured Scotty at once
began pouring upon his head the most bitter
Except to take away his gun and give him
a kick, nobody else paid any attention to him,
for all were hurrying to congratulate Lennox
upon his safe return, to welcome Mr. Ander-
son, to be introduced to Buckeye Jim and the
stranger, who proved to be a Deputy Sheriff
from Denver with a warrant for Scotty's
arrest, and to clap each other on the back
over the fortunate escapes and successes
which had marked the last five minutes with
so much excitement.
Until this hand-shaking had been gone
through with, no one thought of the wounded
man. The time had not been long, however,
THE FIGHT A T THE FORD.
and at first it was more needful to make sure
of the living than to attend to the dead.
But was he dead ?
Na," replied Sandy, who was the first to
kneel by his side and place a hand within
his shirt-bosom to feel if any life remained.
" His hairt beats."
"Glad to hear he's got one ; where is he
wounded?" asked Morris, also kneeling by
his side. Oh, here," pointing to where the
blood was slowly dripping from the left arm
of the prostrate and unconscious man.
"We maun cut away his sleeve," com-
manded Sandy, who seemed to know pre-
cisely what to do, " or he may bleed to
To slit up the sleeves of the coat and
woolen shirt was the work of only half a
moment, and the pain caused by the chill air
striking the lacerated flesh, brought back con-
sciousness in short order.
Glancing around the circle of strange
faces, catching sight of the handcuffed Scotty
1 86 THE FIGHT AT THE FORD.
and mournful Bob, and feeling the numb pain
in his naked arm, which Sandy was washing,
the poor fellow turned aside his face, closed
his eyes, and muttered in complete disgust :
** Why in thunder didn't ye let me die ? "
There's naething but mends for mis-
deeds," was Sandy's sententious rejoinder, as
he cleansed the wound of blood, picked the
shreds of cloth out of it, and lifted the arm
to examine its extent.
The ball ha' passed quite through the
muscles," he announced, ''and entered the
man's side. I'm not so sure, my fair body,
that it was worth while to bring you to."
" Eh ! What's that ? you don't mean to
say — ? "
''Keep cool!" commanded Sandy sternly
" D'ye want to bleed to death, ye fool, before
we can bind ye up ? Keep quiet!"
Dipping a handkerchief in cold water he
bound it tightly round the perforated arm, a
proceeding which set Stevens groaning piti-
THE FIGHT AT THE FORD.
" Now let's see what else," he said ; and
began to search the chest of his patient for
marks of harm.
The hole in the outside of the coat made
by the bullet was plain enough, but no blood
was visible on the vest or shirt. Opening his
coat Sandy found the bullet-hole just over a
pocket ; and as he moved the garment farther,
out tumbled a thick slab of tobacco holding a
flattened bullet, which had not been able to
force its way through. There was a black
bruise on the skin, but to this ignoble agent
the wicked man owed his life.
Thank God ! " he ejaculated, when it was
shown him. No one echoed the words more
fervently then Morris, for though he could
have acquitted his conscience, had his bullet, in
defence of his friends against reckless ruffians,
proved the death of one of them, yet he was
heartily relieved to know that his hand had
sent no human soul to judgment.
Aye, thank God ! " retorted Sandy with
deep sarcasm, "who, in His inscrutable
THE FIGHT AT THE FORD,
wisdom, sends the greatest fuils the greatest
Having had his arm bandaged, Stevens was
able to get upon his feet and walk, supported
by Old Bob. The whole party then slowly
made their way to the cabin, Sandy running
in advance to get the cooking started again.
The wounded Stevens is given a bunk to lie
in, and Scotty a box to sit on, but the Sheriff
declines to take off the handcuffs.
What is the charge against him ? " the
Sheriff is asked.
Horse-stealing and various other things,"
replied the deputy. " Mr. Anderson can tell
you more about it than I, who am acting on a
requisition from the Governor of Illinois."
" He stole some valuable horses from my
farm near Aurora, Illinois, several months
ago," said that gentleman, " and we only
lately heard that he was in this region. It's
a sore subject with Buckeye Jim here," con-
tinued Mr. Anderson, smiling on that big
man, " for we suspected him for a while." -
THE FIGHT AT THE FORD.
That's all right now," Jim responded heart-
ily. " A man who is fool enough to keep the
bad company I've been in sometimes, must
share their color, I suppose, whether he
deserves it or not. We'll say no more about
While this conversation is going on, and
dinner is preparing, Max and Old Bob are
talking outside the door.
Why do you make all this trouble. Bob ? "
Max asked — " What did you expect you'd
get out of it ? "
Reckoned I'd get a good mine. I lowed
you wasn't staying up here for nothin'."
** And you thought it was the Aurora I was
at work in ? "
To be sure ; where else ? this is no good ! "
" Isn't it ? Well, we'll see about that. At
any rate the Aurora is worthless, and I have
merely been using that as a runway to get to
the back end of this mine easily, through a
cross-cut. We're not working the Aurora,
we're working the Last Chance. You could
190 THE FIGHT AT THE FORD.
a' jumped that all day and we wouldn't have
objected enough to fight, but when you came
over here we had to."
And you've won the turn," said Bob
Yes I've won, just as I did once before,
Bob, — maybe you remember — when a
couple of burglars tired to crawl into my
I don't know nothin' about that," Bob re-
plied, in a dogged tone.
Don't you ? Well now, Bob, this makes
twice you escaped being shot in your rascal-
ities with me, and if you ever see your way
out of this present scrape, I'm thinking you'd
better leave the gulch."
"Leave; you bet I'll leave. I 'low you
wouldn't be none too friendly, but that there
Scotty would murder me the first day he got
loose, though this bust-up aint no more my
fault 'n' 'tis his'n."
Do you think so ?"
" Think so ; I know it ! And I've got to
THE FIGHT A T THE FORD. 1 9 1
get clear away from this country, or I'm a
dead man !"
" Maybe I can be of some use to you — I
mean in saving you from Scotty ; but you must
tell me who was with you that night you came
to our cabin."
It was Stevens," said Bob quietly.
"Could you prove it, if you were wanted
"Yes, I could."
** Well, Bob, there's your horse, and a trail
clear to Denver. Good-by. I hope you'll
do better hereafter than I've known you to
Max turned his back and went into the cab-
in, where all the rest were gathering around
the table. By the time he had filled his plate
and had found a seat on an inverted powder-
can, Squint-eyed Old Bob was taking his
unworthy self out of the cafion, and out of
my story, at the best pace he knew how.
He got safely away and never came back ;
but I am sorry to say he behaved no better,
192 THE FIGHT AT THE FORD.
and probably only escaped hanging at last by
getting crushed in a snowslide.
Before dinner was ended, a new arrival, and
a hungry one, appeared in the person of the
Superintendent of Mr. Anderson's mine near
the village, a gentleman whom our firm knew
well, and had a high respect for, both as an
expert in mining and as an honest man.
EXAMINES THE MINE.
THE CAPITALIST EXAMINES THE MINE.
The capitalist frankly told Max and Len, as
the three sat a little apart from the others,
that he had great faith in that region, and
was willing to invest a reasonable amount of
money in any prospect that gave him suffi-
He recalled how the attempt had been
made to dupe him at Old Bob's diggings a
short distance below, and said that he had
felt so well satisfied that nothing this creek
could show was good, that he had resolved
never to look at any property on its banks
At the same time, the behavior of Mr.
Brehm, during the examination of Bob's pros-
pect-hole to which he had just alluded, was so
upright and intelligent, that when he heard
THE MINE EXAMINED,
that something different had been discovered
on Panther Creek, and by whom, he had
readily consented to come and see it. "Now
I want to see all you have to show me ; and
if you have anything good, I've no doubt we
can make some sort of a bargain. But I don't
profess to understand these things as well as
some, and at any rate two heads are better
than one. ' In a multitude of counsellors
there is wisdom,' the Wise Man says. There-
fore I shall ask you to let my superintendent
go in with us."
This long speech was not in the least tire-
some to its hearers, as you may well believe ;
indeed they took a great liking to Mr. Ander-
son's frank, bluff, and business-like manner,
which inspired both respect and confidence.
At once, therefore, the little lamps were
lighted, old canvas coats were lent to the visi-
tors, and the four started into the Last Chance
tunnel. Max leading the way, and Len bring-
ing up the rear.
Sandy remained at the cabin, partly because
THE MINE EXAMINED,
he felt himself an outside factor, and partly to
bear company with Buckeye Jim, Morris, and
the Deputy Sheriff, who were guarding the
prisoner, and chatting over Rocky Mountain
adventures in a way very entertaining to the
Apologies for the unworkman-like condi-
tion of the mine were unnecessary, since every-
body knew the history of the undertaking, so
that nothing was said until the inner cha-mber
had been reached, at the crosscut, the shape
and situation of w^hich was first explained to
" Is your title unquestionable ? " asked Mr.
" Yes ; we had the papers examined by a
lawyer, and the transfer properly recorded.
There is no flaw, that we can discover."
" Where does this water come from ?"
Mainly from a surface seam. I think it
could be drained off above ground by a little
engineering, and thus stopped entirely with-
out much expense."
198 THE MINE EXAMINED.
While this colloquy was in progress, the
superintendent had taken up a pick and
chipped off same pieces of rock from the roof
and sides of the vein, at which he was looking
very sharply under the flame of his smoky
lamp. Lennox noticed with a thrill of grati-
fication how his expert eye, with the instinc-
tive perception acquired by a long training,
threw away what they had learned was worth-
less rock, while the brown stuff, which they
had proved to be valuable, was selected for
•*This is queer-looking stuff," he remarked,
" I never came across anything just like it.
What do you take it to be, Mr. Brehm ?
"That, sir," Max replied, with a bit of
tremor in his voice, for this was the first an-
nouncement, that, sir, I suppose to be a
telluride ofgold, carrying about twenty-eight
ounces to the ton."
Great Scott ! That's the best show of
gold in these parts ! And this black grit must
be a lead-carbonate ! "
THE MINE EXAMINED. 199
So we are told by Denver assayers. They
pronounce it a soft carbonate, rich in lead and
iron, and worth — here's the letter — about one
hundred and twenty dollars to the ton."
Both Mr. Anderson and the superintendent
were vastly interested by this information,
which evidently they accepted as true. The
latter gentleman read aloud the assayer's state-
ment of his analysis of the ore, and pointed
out that it gave very little black-jack, anti-
mony, etc., which indicated that the ore would
be easy to smelt, a most important considera-
tion in estimating its value.
" Is the whole vein, so far as you have gone,
like this?" Mr. Anderson asked, as he held
up his light, and scrutinized the walls and roof
of the small chamber.
" No ; there is not much at the very en-
trance, though, after we learned to recognize
them, we could find traces of both the carbon-
ate and telluride clear to the door-way, but we
saw much more in the interior, and argued
that the deeper we w^ent the richer the mine
200 THE MINE EXAMINED.
would grow, which has proved true up to
the present time. If it hadn't been for those
pesky jumpers, we should have gone several
" The vein doesn't seem to be uniformly
composed of the ore minerals."
" No, it has been growing very strange in its
distribution of late, a fact we began to notice
when we were about two-thirds of the way to
this point. The lode gradually became filled
with more or less globular cavities, which
steadily increased in size. The wall of each of
these cavities is formed almost wholly of the
telluride, and the spaces between are pretty
nearly dead rock. Inside, whenever they are
small, — there are some little ones in the roof,
just over your head, which show it well, — they
are quite filled with nearly solid carbonate ;
but when they are larger — the last one we
struck, you can see a remnant of it in the
breast, was as big as a barrel — they are only
partly full, and the ore of the interior soft
THE MINE EXAMINED.
"They are like miniature caves or mon-
strous geodes," said Mr. Anderson.
Yes," Len put in — he had been quiet as
long as he could stand it, and sometimes
we are warned of what is ahead by the hollow
" Maybe we can find one now, to show
you," Max suggested; and, taking a pick, he
moved toward the extremity of the tunnel,
whither the rest followed him.
Tapping here and there the breast of rock
forming the head of the tunnel. Max pres-
ently detected near the floor a peculiar echo ;
all listened, and agreed that this sound
denoted a hollow.
"I'm not very sure, but I'll try it," he said,
and slipping aside swung back his sturdy
arnfs^preparatory to delivering a tremendous
Down came the pick, crashed through a
shell of rock, and sank out of sight, except a
few inches of handle.
"You've hit it, sure!" exclaimed Mr.
202 THE MINE EXAMINED.
Anderson. " Make the hole a little bigger,
so that we can see in."
Max did so, knocking off the edges until
Len could put head and arms in, whereupon
he reported that he could neither touch nor
see the further side.
Drawing back, the hole was again enlarged,
and Max tossed in a stone, which was heard
to roll downward a long distance.
The whole party was now excited in no
small degree. Taking the superintendent's
candle in addition to his own, Mr. Ander-
son crept inside the aperture, cautiously
descended a short incline, closely followed
by the others, and soon reached a level bot-
tom. The adventurers now found themselves
in a large natural chamber — the interior, in
fact, of an extensive cavity like those of a
lesser size which have been described. The
flickering rays of their lamps and candles let
them see that overhead was a dome-like ceil-
ing, seamed with bright streaks of galena, and
interspersed, in a sort of rude frecso, with
THE FAIRY CAVE.
Silver Caves, Page 202.
THE MINE EXAMINED.
brown carbonates of lead, greenish chlorides
of silver and pure white talc. At several
points in this remarkable chamber small open-
ings appeared, apparently leading to similar
chambers beyond and above.
Choosing one of these apertures opposite
the breach by which they had entered, they
enlarged it somewhat, until one by one they
could squeeze through into a natural tunnel
which ran for a hundred feet or more on an
upward slant Following it slowly, they clam-
bered over boulders of galena, cubic crystals
of lead, almost always accompanied by silver,
and left the first of human footprints upon
mounds of soft gray carbonates. Here, as
before, the walls and roof showed themselves
to be solid masses of chloride and carbonate
ores of silver, through which small deposits
of the telluride of gold were lying like plums
in a pudding.
Returning to the starting-point the ex-
plorers broke down another doorway, and
passing through a second natural tunnel a
THE MINE EXAMINED,
distance of about forty feet, found indications
of other chambers and passages beyond.
"It would seem," cried Mr. Anderson, who
was now more astonished than were our young
friends, the fortunate owners ; — it would
seem as though nature had selected choice
treasures from her great storehouses, and
had placed them in these chambers and
made them beautiful with glittering crystals,
wrought in the heart of these remote moun-
tains, on purpose to lure men to still greater
exertions and richer rewards of labor and
" She's had to wait a good while for visi-
tors to her show," Len remarked.
** Yes," Mr. Anderson replied, but that is
no matter. Nature is never in a hurry. She
can afford to be patient and wait, and let
things move slowly. With her *a thousand
years is but a day.' She has had, and will
have, all the time there is."
For that matter," Max remarked, catching
up the strain, what is this little bit of beauty
THE MINE EXAMINED. 205
and interest, curious as it is, beside the splen-
did shows nature arranges for us, with never
wearying change, from morning till night."
"And from night till morning," added the
superintendent, remembering the brilliant
heavens spread over the clean-aired moun-
Nevertheless, for our purposes," said Mr.
Anderson, heartily, this does very well in-
deed, and I compliment you most sincerely
on your success."
Then they made their way out and told
their wonderful tale. The storm had wholly
cleared from the mountains, and the sun was
shining brilliantly, robing the magnificent
landscape, softened by autumn haze, in its
most glorious garb.
Buckeye Jim and Morris were hearty in
their congratulations, and began to build en-
thusiastic hopes that their own worthless
Aurora might be pushed into a similar group
of silver-caves. But that lode lay on the
2o6 THE MINE EXAMINED.
wrong side of the porphyry partition, and I
regret to say that the money they afterwards
spent in trying the experiment was wholly
The deputy sheriff from Denver was not
greatly moved ; said he had heard tall stories
before; knew how to boom a prospect-hole as
well as the next man, and altogether made
himself disagreeable by his air of unbelief
and his sneering tone. It is wise, no doubt,
to be cautious, but it is very unfortunate for a
man, and especially for a young man, to get
into such a state of mind that no statement
is to be credited, nothing considered genuine,
and no man accepted as honest and well-
As for the prisoners, they were sullen, irri-
tated by the good fortune of those whom they
had intended to ruin, and spent their time in
planning vengeance upon Old Bob for mislead-
ing them and getting them into a scrape from
which they could see no escape, — since, in
fact, there was none.
THE MINE EXAMINED. 207
Fools aye see ither folk's faults, and for-
get their ain," Sandy informed them when
he had become disgusted with their profane
growling and threats.
Of all the company in the cabin, indeed,
Sandy McKinnon, naturally, was the one most
deeply interested in this marvelous find, which,
for him, meant a sudden and unhoped-for
good fortune out of his brief essay in America.
" Hech, man," he cried out, it's jest the
old days of Alladdin an' his lamp — the open-
sesame business, ye mind. Why, the riches
o' it must be untold ! '*
The next morning, after all the rest had
started for town (for Stevens was quite able
to travel, despite his wound), Mr. Anderson
and his adviser sat down to a business talk
with our heroes.
As I understand it," the capitalist began,
you were anxious to sell an interest in this
mine, and hoped to persuade me to buy such
an interest. Is that so ?"
" It is," came in double response from Max
, " Do you still wish to sell, in view of the
remarkable disclosures yesterday ?"
I do not see how otherwise we are to get
money to carry on the work," said Max, "and
therefore, though we should be glad to retain
212 SUCCESS ACHIEVED.
the whole, I fear we shall be obliged to dis-
pose of a part."
" How great a part ? "
" Last week," replied Max smiling, **I should
have said half, but now I think a quarter
would be enough to take off, at any rate, as
the first slice."
What is your idea of price ?"
Well, yesterday my partners and I had
agreed upon a price, but I fear that wont do
for to-day, since Len and Sandy here seem to
think the mine looks a little more promising
You should have seen the grins that passed
around that circle and answered one another.
" We would like to hear what you have
to offer," Len suggested, addressing Mr.
''Well," the capitalist answered, " I've been
thinking about it, and am free to say, that I
feel disposed to join with you, — buy a share
of your mine, organize a new firm, and go in
for its thorough development ; but before I
SUCCESS ACHIEVED. 213
can say what I am willing to give, I must
know more than I do as to the probable cost
of certain preparations, such as the drainage
of the mine, the availability of timber for
inside bracing, etc., the cost of making a
wagon road up here, the kind of winter houses
which will be needful, and various other
things. How would ten thousand dollars
strike you as payment for half the mine ? "
Sandy's eyes opened wide. That is a great
deal of money to a Scotchman. Lennox
looked as though he was just ready to jump
at it, but Max calmly raised one foot over his
knee and said quietly :
" It doesn't come within sight of the proper
Mr. Anderson laughed, and put on his hat
for a tramp up the cliff, where, Max had said,
it might be possible to head off the water.
A week later all assembled in Mr. Ander-
son's office in the Camp to hear his pro-
214 SUCCESS ACHIEVED.
" I will give you," he said, " fifty thousand
dollars in cash for one half of the mine, for if
I cannot have more than a quarter, it will not
pay me to touch it ; a new partnership to be
made between us four for continuing the
work, and the profits to be divided according
to the amount which each one contributes
under the new arrangement toward putting
the mine in a shape to produce and sell ore."
This proposition was accepted. And while
the proper papers were being made out, the
three members of the old firm of Brehm, Bush-
wick & Co. went aside to settle their own
affairs preparatory to dissolving the partner-
" McKinnon," said Len, as spokesman,
"Max and I have been studying what ought
to be your share of this money. We think
that the circumstances have been so peculiar,
that it would not be doing as well by you
as we want to, if we stick by the old agree-
ment, and at the same time we felt that you
were not quite even with us in the affair. We
thought we would split the difference by offer-
ing you ten thousand dollars and a chance to
come into the new firm for so much as you
choose to re-invest. Will that be satis-
" Parfectly — parfectly, and I thank ye for
your leeberality, since I wadna hae blamed
ye had ye stuck to the original terms, though,
to be sure, they would 'a' fallen far short o'
what ye are proposin'. But, I ha' had eno' o'
the mining business. It's no what I w^as cut
out for, I'm thinkin', and wi' all respect to you,
and carryin' away a life-long gladness, that I
ever met ye, I will take my belongings back
to auld Scotland and aye stay there."
And so he did.
The new firm, Mr. Anderson, Max and Len-
nox, put the Silver Caves, as they called the
new mine, into fine shape ; constructed wagon-
roads, built good houses in place of the old
cabin, and in a few years were carrying on one
of the most extensive mines in that part of
the mountains. It came to be only one in a
2i6 SUCCESS ACHIEVED,
group of good mines which were discovered
on both sides of the creek, when men learned
what kind of ore to look for in that district.
But none of them have ever excelled this in
value, nor is any company more likely to reach
a higher and higher prosperity, than this first
mine and its managers, in which we have been
interested ; a success due not to luck, but to
keen eyes, willing hands, and stout hearts.